¡Arriba! Daddy Yankee Goes Out On Top With ‘La Última Vuelta Tour’
It’s hard to imagine our heroes being affected by time as we are. With their contributions to the world, they burrow themselves into the collective consciousness and live on forever the way they entered it. But there comes a time for change and goodbyes, which aren’t always easy, truths that Daddy Yankee and his supporters are learning as the superstar rests up and readies for the culmination of not only his tour but illustrious music career that began nearly three decades ago. Fans coming to terms with the 46-year-old known as the King of Reggaeton hanging up the mic have come out in droves to get one last glimpse of the famous Puertorriqueño, who announced his intention to retire following a farewell tour supporting his final studio album, Legendaddy. He embarked on “La Última Vuelta (The Final Ride) Tour” last July and will soon announce the concluding shows of what has been his most successful run, one that will appropriately end where it all began.
“The truth is that doing nearly 90 shows in five months is incredible,” Daddy Yankee, whose real name is Raymond Ayala, tells Pollstar about his tour farewell tour promoted by manager Ralphy Pina, whose company is called Mr. Sold Out, and Cárdenas Marketing Network (CMN). “The energy of the people is what kept me motivated to keep doing every show with the same intensity. The reception and support [from fans] has been incredible. It fills me with joy to accomplish what I imagined my career; how I imagined it as a ‘chamaquito,’ an adolescent, is the same way I’m ending it: with a great closer and with my people in Puerto Rico.”
And what a way to go out. Daddy Yankee’s final run has sold nearly two million tickets and grossed more than $200 million since last summer, making it the second highest-grossing tour of 2023’s first quarter, according to Pollstar box office reports. He was also one of two Latin artists to finish among the top 10 in Pollstar’s Top Worldwide Tours of 2022. The other was, of course, Bad Bunny, who set the all-time touring record grossing $435.38 million in a single year. Bad Bunny has cited Daddy Yankee as an influence, and the two collaborated on “X Última Vez,” a track on Legendaddy, last year.
“That’s incredible,” Daddy Yankee says of cracking the top 10. “I think this year was important for Latin Music, for marking a precedent. What Bad Bunny and Daddy Yankee did this year is an important precedent for the industry.”
It was also a banner year for CMN, which promoted both reggaeton stars’ record-breaking tours. Founder and CEO Henry Cárdenas has worked with Daddy Yankee since 2005 and was in awe of the reception from fans as well as the ticket sales, including a record 322,028 sold at Foro Sol in Mexico City across five shows between Nov. 29 and Dec. 4.
“We never imagined that he’d do the numbers that he did in the farewell tour,” Cárdenas says. “I’ve never seen that in my career, a performer doing 80-something concerts in [five months]. It’s crazy, but he did it.”
It truly is impressive that Daddy Yankee managed to accomplish his farewell run without many hiccups considering the size of the production. With a crew of nearly 200 people that included bandmembers and dancers traveling with him, and whether he played in U.S. arenas or South American stadiums, the superstar delivered the same spectacular.
“Each night, I see it as an experience that should stay with a fan forever,” Daddy Yankee says. “And because this is my last tour, I wanted every person who purchased a ticket to take that impression with them, so that they can forever say, ‘The best concert in my life was the Daddy Yankee show.’ That is why we prepared a complete production for both arenas and stadiums. … We had a band, lights, dancers and more than 180 people. We were united in battle, in a musical battle to execute the perfect Daddy Yankee show.”
In order to deliver the spectacle and not shortchange ticket-buyers in Latin America, Cárdenas said the Boricua invested his own money to ensure they had the same experience as fans in the U.S.
“Guys like Benito [Bad Bunny] and Raymond, said, ‘Listen, I’m going to take some money out of my pocket, and I want to take everything that we had at [Chicago’s] Soldier Field and take it to Bolivia,’” Cárdenas says. “I was very pleased with that, that we didn’t give anybody less and everyone was equal, the way it’s supposed to be.”
The remarkable run wasn’t without its challenges. Aside from the ever-increasing production and travel costs, there were concerns about security. Cárdenas said fans in Ecuador and Argentina camped outside the hotel where Daddy Yankee was staying, and the stadiums in Latin America weren’t big enough to fulfill the high demand with more than a million people unable to secure tickets, many of whom made their way to the venue anyway.
“What happened is they tried to get close to the stadium and security was just a nightmare,” Cárdenas says. “I don’t know how we controlled that. We had to go out and meet with government officials to get the army, get tanks and surround the stadium so we didn’t have 400,000 people trying to get close to the stadium. If you allow people to get to the stadium, it’s over because they’re going to knock the doors and everything down.”
Thankfully, it never got to that point thanks to CMN’s contacts in the continent, and South American fans had an opportunity to see Daddy Yankee in their town or nearby. Except for the tour’s opening show in Torremolinos, Spain, the reggaeton star didn’t announce any stops in Europe, and Cárdenas is working his magic and trying to convince the legendary artist to add more dates.
“What I explained to Raymond is that farewells can take two to three years,” Cárdenas says. “Look at Elton John — he’s been saying bye for three years because he goes everywhere. The world is too big to do in one year. We have hope that he will come back. We just pray that we get that call, but it’s up to him.”
The final shows in Puerto Rico originally scheduled for early January, which are promoted by Mr. Sold Out, were postponed due to “logistical” reasons, giving Cárdenas and fans across the world hope that Daddy Yankee extends his tour.
What did Daddy Yankee think of the idea? The charismatic artist laughed when asked about squeezing in a few more shows.
“I do think about it, but the reality is I’m ending this in Puerto Rico. I don’t have more shows this year,” he says. “I do get an itch for the fans in Europe who write to me. That’s part of the job that hurts because I know I have incredible fans in Europe. I don’t know if I’d do it; I think about it and I feel bad, but the truth is I’m trying to invest my time in my family and other projects.”
Daddy Yankee is content with his decision and looks forward to observing the trajectories of the current generation of Latin artists in their respective genres as he enters the next phase of his life, which includes the production of music and other art forms.
“Now, the good part begins for all of the Latin artists who aspire to take their career to another level,” he says. “We set the bar, and it’s up to this new generation of artists to raise it higher and mark a precedent for the generations to come.”
Best of luck to them because it certainly is the highest bar ever set in the history of música en Español, one that could have only been accomplished by someone who is royalty in the industry and referred to as the king by his contemporaries. Hail to the Reggaeton King, baby.