Shakira first became known to most of the world in the late 90’s as Columbia’s answer to Alanis Morissette. She was young, very pretty, yet very angsty. She even had the same hairdo as Alanis. As time went on, she has managed to move far beyond this, both visually & sonically. She is now one of those rare celebrities is recognizable in nearly every country in the world, and has pulled off what very few people can do: She has managed to become a pop music superstar. And she did it in the last decade, at a time when nobody was breaking out into this kind of territory. Even more impressive is that she’s done it as a musician, not some sort of business person that has musician as one of several hyphenates. It’s been a long time since we’ve gotten a stage show from her, in fact it’s been about 4 years since her last tour, and 7 years since she last graced Oakland with her presence.
So how does a world class performer, philanthropist, and one of the wealthiest woman in pop music come out for her nearly sold out appearance at Oracle Arena? Well, for starters, 100 minutes late. The advertised start time was 8 PM, with no support act. Although a DJ kept people entertained with a pleasant mix of standard Top 40, rock en espanol, and popular indie rock hits, the patience of the crowd was definitely tested. By 9:30, people were actively booing. From that point, it was another 10 minutes before Shakira actually made her way into the crowd.
Her entrance was both subtle, and of high impact, simultaneously. She came in through the back of the arena in a stunning pink gown with a translucent scarf covering her head, singing the ballad “Pienso En Ti” with nearly a’capella. She held her mike in one hand, and slowly made her way to the stage, stopping to shake hands and take pictures with fans along the way, all without skipping a beat. She then climbed on stage, ripped off her dress to show a gold top and black pants, and kicked straight into a guitar heavy version of “Why Wait.” She ran through this song, as well as the next two songs, swiftly. Her band is about as solid a unit as you can get. They are extremely well rehearsed, and gave every song that arena-rock bombast that you need to connect to such a large room.
Shakira, herself, is truly one of the great performers. She “plays to the cheap seats” as you will, and doesn’t really need much more than a band, a microphone, and her own amazingly gifted body to do this. The woman simply will not stop dancing. She also has the rare gift that few performers can pull off, which creating the illusion that you are looking into the eyes of every single person in the room. This is something that few performers are capable of pulling off in a small club, but it takes a real talent to do this in front of 19,000 people.
One of the early show highlights was midway through in extended version of her first English language hit, “Wherever, Whenever,” in which had both an amazing flute breakdown, as well as a group belly dance lesson, where she brought a handful of young girls on stage to show us some of her signature moves. It stretched out to about 7 or 8 minutes (I wasn’t timing it), but when it was over, I was sad the song ended.
About midway through the set, the band came out to the middle of the venue, where we had a smaller platform set up, and they played a short set of acoustic numbers. They began with a sexy flamenco version of Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters,” a song that has been covered so many times that it now should be considered a standard, but never like this. She took it straight into Love In The Time Of Cholera‘s “Despedida,” which was a seductive dance number in which she managed to test the skill and professionalism of her drummer by incorporating him into her moves. And this really was a “you had to be here” moment. All I can say is that the entire venue needed a cold shower after this one. She ended the acoustic set with “Gypsy,” a lesser heard track off last year’s She-Wolf record. Her versatile band managed to pull of this traditional Egyptian-sounding number with ease, and truly impressed me.
Without allowing the energy to fall at all, they played “Ciego, Sordomuda” with an impressive us of the Stroh Violin in place of the horns section from the original recording. Then, she managed to bring the show to the next level. By this point, her show primarily consisted to simply a singer with a band performing music on a stage. She had video screens, but they were only there to help the people in the back see better. The next thing you know, and a giant Residente Calle 13 head came out of nowhere to perform “Gordita,” therefore making one of the creepiest duets in pop music even creepier. To make matters more severe, the head stuck around throughout the next portion of the set, making the unfamiliar material from her new record, Sale el Sol, a bit more memorable.
The head went back into hiding for the main set ender, which included her current single, “Loca,” which had a surprisingly lackluster response from the crowd. This song is getting an insane amount of airplay in the bay area, and only went to show how few people are actually listening to the radio. The electro charge of “She-Wolf”, complete with the first use of back up dancers for the show managed to get more people moving, but it was set closer, the rai-influenced “Ojos Asi” that got the crowd up and moving with the greatest frenzy of the evening.
As for the encore, we got the epic power ballad from her new record, “Antes De La Seis,” followed by her mega hit “Hips Don’t Lie,”
which, sadly, did not feature a giant Wyclef Jean head. (Boo!) Instead, her keyboardist managed to pull of an impressive impersonation of Mr Jean on the duet, and even managed to pull of a few dance moves himself. Even better was the closing number, which was Shakira’s World Cup 2010 Anthem, “Woka Woka (This Time For Africa),” a song that is a bit overly saccharine on record, managed to come of triumphantly live. The energy stayed in high gear, and the show itself closed with so much confetti one could almost drown it the stuff!
Pienso en Ti
Te Dejo Madrid
Si Te Vas
El Nay A’atini Nay
Nothing Else Matters / Despedida
Underneath Your Clothes
Gordita (Featuring the severed head of Residente Calle 13)
Sale el Sol
Las de la Intuición
Antes De Las Seis
Hips Don’t Lie
Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)