Love ‘em or hate ‘em, this decade’s pop stars have helped to reimagine what a live show can be. Pushed along by technological achievements most of us can’t even understand, the pop concert experience has grown from costume changes and fog machines to a multimedia experience that, for most music fans, rivals anything the multiplex cinema has to offer. On Wednesday, the Colombian pop princess Shakira, known as much for her rapid-fire hip thrusts as she is for her voice, spent the night cooing, wailing, and writhing for a sold-out house, and delivered one of the highest-energy shows the Bowl has seen this season.
Shakira Plays the Santa Barbara Bowl
Entering from above the general admission pit, Shakira started her set to screams and cheers. Dressed in a long, draped hot pink gown that half-resembled a Little Bo Peep ensemble, Shakira moved through the crowd slowly and then stepped onto the built-out, venue-bisecting stage at its tip. From there, it was a quick strip down to “Why Wait,” a fast-paced, guitar-driven number, and then her 2001 breakthrough hit “Wherever, Whenever,” which included a lengthy breakdown and some hip-shaking help from two lucky female fans.
Throughout the night, Shakira moved fluidly between new and old, and Spanish and English, with a deftness that few performers could pull off. She broke it down with a collection of acoustic numbers (including an impressive Cumbia-tinged rendition of Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters”) that highlighted her oft-overlooked vocal chops. Then she brought it back with a saucy and percussion-filled reworking of “La Despedida,” which found the singer suggestively—and impressively—grinding to the beat in front of her drummer.
Highs occurred throughout the set, thanks to the hip-shaking magic of “Gypsy” and a big helping of meticulously electro-fied numbers like “She Wolf,” “Loca,” and “Gordita.” Still, it was the one-two punch of “Hips Don’t Lie” and “Waka Waka (Time for Africa)” that ultimately sealed the deal. Backed by an eight-man band and a small army of kids and backup dancers, the singer shook, jumped, and wailed her way through the World Cup-approved anthem, turning the Bowl into a confetti-filled party that saw no color lines, welcomed families, and worked to unite a few thousand people around a tiny songstress, a big chorus, and a message about hope that was far larger than the sum of its parts.