Shakira at the Santa Barbara Bowl Oct. 20, 2010
Paul Wellman

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.

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.


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