Friday Night: Shakira Opens Oracle Arena Concert with Commercial for Her Perfume

shakira.jpg
Courtesy of the artist

Shakira

October 22, 2010

@ Oracle Arena

There was no opening act for Shakira on Friday night at the Oracle Arena. Quite simply, Shakira (Our Lady of "Hips Don't Lie," "She Wolf" sensation, "Waka Waka" wonder of the 2010 World Cup) needs no introduction.

Hell, like Madonna, like Prince, like Gaga, Shakira doesn't even need a last name.

There was still one "welcome" to the show for us, a mass of fans stacked into layer after layer of stadium balconies, having Paypaled away so much electronc cash for the tickets you wonder whether Shakira's hair extenstion specialist flies to shows on a private jet. (There was a $9 seat section -- somewhere -- but we couldn't see that high.) 


It was an hour past the 8:00 start time, and we were excited to see something, anything, vaguely Shakira-like at this point. Suddenly, an image started swirling towards us on the big screens where the Golden State Warriors are usually shown perspiring while prepping for their free throws. Action! Yes! An image of Shakira with her long honey tresses came at us. Yes! Yes! Then Shakira disappeared -- No! No! -- and a vial of perfume settled on the screen. 

It was a commercial. Shakira stumping for her perfume line, called simply "S." No, I am not kidding.

Now feeling more like I was in the duty-free section of the airport than at a concert, I realized I had been a fool to expect anything else. If you go to a big, produced stadium concert, you get a big, produced stadium concert. While Shakira would later suggestively tell us, "Have fun, because tonight, I'm all yours!" you realized, no, Shakira is not all yours at all.

But onto the show. Shakira emerged into the darkened arena around 9:30 -- not onto the stage, but from the back tunnel, all NBA starter-like. She arrived less as Shakira (bra, unitard, leather pants, something to that effect) than as an avant-garde Lady Gaga, esconced in a hot pink tutu wad of netting bunched around her and framing her head and blonde-tresses.

She crooned to us with her otherwordly yodel as she glided across the floor accepting and bestowing tokens of love from her fandom, something like Eva Peron does Glinda the Good Witch.

Glinda benevolently accepted kisses on the cheek from men held back by the stern security guards. Glinda bent over to hug little girls -- all the while smiling, never missing a note. I mused that this was an amazing vocal feat. Don't cry for her, Argentina! Shakira is not mortal! The cynic seated next to me guessed she was lip-synching.

Once she reached the stage, Shakira whipped off the hot pink confection of a frock to reveal a gold chain-mail shirt and black spandex pants. Shakira was ready to shimmy.

During one of the early numbers, Shakira jogged down the runway and chirped "I have an idea!" as if she hadn't had this same idea at every other concert. Shakira's idea was to get some audience members to come up and dance with her. She invited up a teen with a plaid ruffle mini-skirt, an attractive suburban-looking mother, and most disturbingly, a girl who was probably, like, nine. Shakira then led them in a dance sequence that was seemingly ripped out of a Shakira aerobics video: "Left, right, left!" with the hips, and then rolling them around a little more sexually then you'd probably wish your nine-year-old to do on a JumboTron. After a few rounds of this, Shakira ran back to the main stage, leaving the ladies to make their way back to the audience alone, the nine-year-old forever to remember the night her idol taught her to grind her hips all stripper-like in a basketball arena. I felt slightly sad.

But there was no time for that. Shakira blazed through her stand-by hits, never once letting her showmanship sag, even during the truly forgettable ballads off her new album ("Sale el Sol," what were you thinking? "Gypsy," what were you thinking?) There were a few surprises: during the acoustic "Gypsy" set, three musicians came downstage with animal-hide drum, charango, and a guitar to play a haunting South American folkloric cover of Metallica's "Nothing Else Matters," during which Shakira showed off her lower range.

Later in the concert, Shakira donned some hot green Hammer pants and went electropop for a spell: "She Wolf" had video game-quality fills with early arcade game light patterns projected on the screens and giant mask behind her. For her encore, only awarded after nearly 10 minutes of non-stop cheers, she pulled out "Hips Don't Lie" and, of course, "Waka Waka," starting with an inspirational video of African kids announcing they wanted to be an engineer and driver when they grow up and ending with pink and green confetti shooting out into the audience like a giant Shakiragasm.    

Critic's Notebook

Interesting about these arena shows: Even though I had a choice seat in the first rows above the main floor, I found myself watching the Jumbotron of Shakira more than the real Shakira, a tiny barefooted blip writhing up on stage. If not for the fact I exited the arena with ears ringing from the truly bombastic volume level, I realized I might as well have watched the whole thing -- so packaged, so well-produced, so predictable -- on YouTube. Actually, as for the commercial for Shakira's perfume, I already can.

Personal bias: Before Friday night, I loved Shakira as much as a I loved parodies of Shakira. While "She Wolf" is awesome, "He Wolf" is divine. Youtube it.

Crowd: Muy, muy latino, and very dressed up. Limos waiting out front. Women in heels and tight stretchy tops. A few men in their Colombian-style hats and others waving Colombian flags. Some gay couples mixed in, as well as white-haired business men in suit coats taking their ladies out for the night. Little girls.

Quote of the night from the cynic next to me: Shakira said in her adorable Colombian accent, "I wrote this in my country, Colombia, on a beach near my village of Barranquilla, on a night like this one, filled with stars." Cynic said: "Oh yeah, like all those stars shining over Oakland!" Bitch.

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