Backstage Pass: Vicente Fernandez

On his final tour the king of ranchera music proves it’s good to be El Rey

Elvis isn’t the only musician with a royal nickname. On both sides of the border Vicente Fernández reigns over ranchera music, with its swaying, wrenching Mexican folk ballads. This Saturday (March 24) the suave 73-year-old returns to Staples Center and next month (April 26 – 28) to the Gibson Amphitheatre. The dates are among his last gigs before he retires. A fifth-grade dropout who started busking on the streets of Jalisco, Fernández was 26 when he landed the record deal that launched his career. More than 70 albums later, the matinee idol still packs concert venues in the same way he packs emotion into his tenor. “He has a tear on his voice” is how Camilo Lara, the managing director of EMI Music Mexico, describes Fernández’s dramatic singing style. For his finale Fernández rides into town armed with enough lovelorn ballads to break your heart, no matter what language you speak.