Next, to all readers: I am well aware of how insanely long this is, and I thank anyone and everyone who takes the time to read it in full. If people want, I can even do an audio recording of it with music from the show so they can listen to the review while doing other things. If there are a lot of requests for this, I can do it without a problem.
Now, without further waiting, here is, finally, my review of Shakira's concert at the Madison Square Garden in New York City on September 21st, 2010:
Part I: Introduction
The loud symbol fills the air, as Middle Eastern instruments slowly creep along. A violin and an accordion dive between one-another as the exotic introduction bursts into an equally Middle Eastern beat...
I reach out, and turn off my alarm clock.
It is September 21st, 2010.
My 18th birthday, and the day I will see my favorite musical artist of the past five years live, for the first time, and even in my favorite city in the world.
The ultimate day.
Part II: The Set Up
Shakira, the Colombian megastar, has been my favorite artist since 2005, when I found her amazing Middle Eastern tune, "Ojos Asi". Since then, my love for her and all of her music has grown immensely, so that on the amazing day of September 21st, 2010, I could consider myself a mega-fan.
When Shakira's new world tour was announced earlier in the year, I knew I would finally see Shakira live for the first time. It was simply a question of when, and where. One of the first dates of the tour was in New York City, my favorite place in the world, and amazingly enough, on my 18th birthday - September 21st. However, the City was still a good few hours away, tickets were expensive, as were hotels, and it was on a school night. It was impossible to be able to go. I'd have to hope for a date in the much-closer Boston.
Such a date never came.
I was beginning to accept that I might not see Shakira this year, after all, when all of that changed in late May. A user of Shakiraholics Forum, who wishes to remain anonymous, and I were discussing the tour dates. He said that he had great tickets for one of the shows, and "OK" ones for New York, and that it turned out his planned vacation to visit family interfered with the New York show date. He thus planned to pass on his tickets to the New York concert, at the Madison Square Garden, to someone on Shakiraholics. I told him that at least one person was interested - myself. He told me the seat numbers, and I asked how much they were. Under the condition that I wouldn't sell them for profit (which I never would anyway), he said that they were free. I discussed this situation with my mom, and within minutes, I had an email with a pdf attachment titled "Shakira Tix" sitting in my inbox. After thanking the Shakiraholics member like I've never thanked anyone before, I opened the document and stared at the two e-tickets displayed on my monitor.
Tickets for Shakira, at the Madison Square Garden, for September 21st, 2010. I printed them immediately.
The Other Ticket
For the first month or so with the tickets, the plan was for my mom to go to New York with me to see the show, but then I considered a friend of mine named Eric. We'd only met face-to-face once, otherwise we talked online. He was as big a Shakira nut as me, and although also originally from Massachusetts like me, he was going to college in Maryland, where no show had been announced, either. I asked my mom if I could offer the second ticket for the New York concert to him, but she insisted I wait for him to get his college schedule. And so wait, I did.
Summer went by, and a great summer at that. The show got closer and closer, and finally Eric got his schedule, his classes ending reasonably early in the day. It would be possible for him to be able to make it to New York in time for the show, which would start at 8:00 (or so the tickets said). It was late August when I finally offered him the ticket. He gladly accepted it, and I was very, very excited to know I'd be seeing the show with another Shakira fan. The only issue was where we would stay.
The Final Plan
Time was getting shorter and shorter, and every hotel near the Garden was between $300-$500, which was out of the question. Finally, only days before the show, a miracle happened. The chanter from my Temple, who had recently moved to the City, offered to let us stay at her apartment, only a twenty minute walk from the Garden. We accepted the offer. Bus and train tickets were purchased, times were decided on, and Eric and I were ready for the show.
Part III: The Build Up
And so, my alarm goes off on the morning of September 21st, "Ojos Asi" appropriately being the song my iPod dock is set to play. I open my eyes, and see the date on its screen: September 21st. A slight thrill goes through me, but I also look at the time: 6:00 AM. I still have to go through a half-day of school before being dismissed before lunch to get to the bus station.
I get out of bed, eat, brush teeth, get dressed, the usual routine. School binder in hand and backpack strapped over my shoulders, I head off to my school, anxious for the day ahead. Classes drag by slower than ever as I feel every single minute crawl by. Finally, I am dismissed.
As opposed to going right to the bus station, I go back home first, to eat and pack. An hour later, I'm all set for the journey ahead, and my dad drives me to the station. I get on the nearly empty bus, and begin a series of updates on Twitter from my phone:
Tour Journey Log 1: On the bus to Hartford, CT. Bus to NYC from there. And so it begins!
12:51 PM Sep 21st via txt
I watch the skyline of my home town get more and more distant. The ride to Hartford feels quick, replying to "happy birthday" texts and listening to my iPod. I think that I see Foxwoods from a distance, and I think of Ines and how exciting her show was, and thus how exciting tonight will be. When the bus finally arrives at the Hartford station, I sit down on a bench outside. The connecting bus to New York City is scheduled to arrive an hour later. Another Twitter update is sent:
Tour Journey Log 2: Just got to Hartford. Now an hour's wait for the bus to NYC!
2:00 PM Sep 21st via txt
Unfortunately, the bus to New York City does not show up an hour later, but an hour and twelve minutes later. I'm annoyed yes, but when I sit down on the bus, I get even more anxious as the driver goes off for a break. He comes back about fifteen minutes later. I Tweet:
Tour Journey Log 3: Bus to NYC is JUST leaving. Half an hour late. Ugh.
3:33 PM Sep 21st via txt
That is the last "Tour Journey Log" Tweet I send for the day, with the exception of one saying I don't know how to send pictures to Twitter with my phone. The ride to New York is agonizing as we hit traffic on the highway, but I feel relief as the sky blue license plates of Connecticut become fewer in number, being replaced by many New York ones. Only moments after noticing this, at only a few minutes before 5:30, I see the first sign for New York.
As we finally reach and enter the City, we hit the usual (but still stressful) traffic on its streets. I'm tapping my foot in anticipation. It's already 6:30, the show is starting in a mere hour and a half. My hope to be at the Garden early dies. Eric calls me - his train has already arrived, and he is at the Garden. I tell him to get in line, and that I'll be there soon.
The bus finally arrives at the Port Authority, a major transportation terminal in the City. I rush out of the building and onto the constantly crowded sidewalks of New York, barely taking in the sights that I love so much. My mind is on finding the Garden, and only on finding the Garden. Finally, I Tweet one last time, not bothering with the formalities of the Log due to the fact that at the same time, I am running like heck:
MSG IN SIGHT.
6:53 PM Sep 21st via txt
Madison Square Garden
I enter the massive building, going through the built-in Penn Station and finally entering the Garden's territory itself. Immediately, my heart beats faster than ever. I hear Shakira's 2001 hit, "Objection (Tango)", playing over the building's speakers. The reality of the situation finally sets in:
I am going to see Shakira live.
I find the line to enter the stadium itself, which starts going in only moments later. Looking around for Eric, we finally find each-other. We say hi, and I pull the tickets from my pocket and hand him one. He's wearing a bright yellow "WAKA WAKA" shirt, which he receives many compliments about throughout the night from total strangers.
Finally, we approach the employees with the ticket scanners. Our tickets are scanned, and we walk through the barrier keeping people from running up the stairs beyond and into the show.
We have some difficulty finding our seats. Eventually we find ourselves on the top level of the arena, and for the first time, I see the stage. I take this picture:
Finally, with the help of very kind and patient Garden employees, the seats are located - floor seats on the middle-left. Eric and I put our bags on our seats. Loud music from high up speakers fills the entire arena. Some of it is generic pop, but also in the mix are two tracks from Shakira's upcoming album: "Sale el Sol", and "Antez de laz Seis", along with an ad for her perfume, "S", which plays on the screens hanging on the stage's left and right.
I look at the stage, and the view is amazing. Although the main stage is a little ways away, the end of the catwalk and the platform at its end are extraordinarily close:
I figure the giant screen behind the stage will probably be helpful, too.
Xavi is the name of a man on Shakira's team. He dealt with the promotion of Shakira's song "Waka Waka", among other things relating to her videos and website. In the days before the show, it had been established that he would try to meet Eric and I.
And so, standing in amazement and anticipation of the show, Eric and I take in the sight of the stage, talking about various Shakira things. Eric then goes closer to the blue dividers separating the halves of the arena. There, he finds Xavi. The three of us talk for ten minutes or so, and it's amazing talking about Shakira so seriously with people in person, as opposed to just online. Xavi is an incredible nice and friendly person and a real pleasure to talk to - one can tell he really cares for Shakira's fans. I also ask a question about Shakira that had been on my mind for years, a question about a clip of an unreleased music video. I am told that a full version does indeed exist, and Xavi is even surprised that it was never released.
After a short while, he must to go back to his backstage duties, and so we say our goodbyes. Eric and I return to our seats, talking and joking about various things while waiting for the show to begin.
The crowd in the arena gets larger and larger:
The clear view of the catwalk begins to be covered by people, and I hope that I'll be able to see Shakira clearly while she's there. Meanwhile, the president of Colombia, and other international leaders, enter the arena from the upper opposite side, getting huge cheers and applause from the enormous crowd that is getting bigger by the minute. The crowd is just as anxious as I am, for any time the music playing through the stadium goes down even a little, everyone screams as if Shakira herself had just come out.
Suddenly, the lights go out. The roar of the crowd is deafening. It's a little after 8:00. Showtime?
The lights turn on again about ten minutes later.
It's then that I feel the red shirt I'm wearing just isn't right enough for the event. I tell Eric I'll be right back, and I head out of the arena, and into the hallway outside it. A merchandise venue is just a short way down the hall. It has keychains, mugs, sweatshirts, and t-shirts. I look between the Tour shirt, and a shirt with the cover art of Shakira's previous album, "She Wolf", and I decide to purchase the latter for $35. I proudly go back to the arena and put the She Wolf shirt on over my red one. A couple people during the rest of the wait take pictures of it, and Eric's Waka Waka shirt. Inside the Shakira bag it came in is also a cardboard slip about "S", and a sampler of it.
More time passes. It's about 9:15. As some fellow fans online had guessed, the show would indeed start closer to 9 than 8. Eric is in the now crowded aisle between the rows of seats, and I am at our seats.
Another deafening roar occurs, and I figure it's just another celebrity entering. The lights all go out again, and the cheer continues even louder.
Whoever just came in has the worst timing ever. I think, believing that Shakira would appear on stage any second now, but the cheer would already be happening for whoever had just entered the arena. A light is still on, shining over whoever that person is, coming in from an entrance in the back of the stadium, on the opposite side of me.
"Who is it?" I ask two young men in the seats in front of me.
"The person in pink." One replies. I get on the tips of my toes, and indeed, the late arriver has some kind of pink headdress on.
A voice echoes throughout the entire stadium, acapella, singing in Spanish. The cheer of the crowd, just when I think it couldn't get any louder, does.
It's Shakira's song from 1996, "Pienso en Ti".
She is here.
Part IV: The Show
Pienso en Ti
The screens on the sides of the stage turn on as Shakira continues to sing, though I cannot see her anywhere. As my attention turns to the screens, I notice they are showing the person in the pink headdress, also in a flowing dress of the same color, and I can't believe my eyes.
She is walking down a path in the crowd, touching people's hands, giving hugs, as she continues to sing "Pienso en Ti". She stops in front of a little girl for a moment, staring right into her eyes with the sweetest smile while finishing the current line of the song. She then gives the girl a kiss on the cheek, and the whole stadium cheers even louder.
Shakira finally reaches the end of the catwalk and steps up onto the octagon-shaped platform there, the audience going wild. I look to the stage, and, for the first time ever, I see Shakira with my own eyes. She turns a bit, and I see her face, and for a moment, none of it seems real... but it is, she is right there, only a few rows away.
She is walking down the walk's length towards the stage as "Pienso en Ti" finishes. The stage goes dark for a moment, and immediately, an electronic beat starts playing. Shakira throws off the pink dress as she reaches the main stage.
And so it begins.
The stage lights turn on and become a dark orange-yellow, with the exception of the bright, white lights built into the floor of the platform at the catwalk's end. The beat continues, with slight Middle Eastern touches and an electric guitar.
"Good evening, New York!" Shakira calls out. She throws her arms up in the air as the crowd greets her back. The beat pauses for a moment, and resumes as Shakira starts to sing, placing the microphone into a stand and walking it to the stage's center.
I start to sing along immediately, knowing the words, but it's not until half-way through the song that I actually realize it's "Why Wait"; in all the excitement, I hadn't even noticed what song she was singing., but I had still sung the lyrics anyway.
Shakira is now wearing tight black pants, and a reflective gold, sleeveless top, which hangs down more on her right while cut up at a diagonal angle on the left to reveal a slight sliver of her stomach. She is also wearing black shoes.
At the end of the chorus, she removes the microphone from the stand, and picks something up from a stool nearby. Earlier, before the show had started, Eric had pointed it out to me as it sat on the stage filled by crew going back and forth. He had called it only a "prop" - a long piece of blue material with some kind of reddish-pink pattern on it. Now, as Shakira walks down the catwalk, microphone in her left hand, blue fabric in her right, the strong beat and Middle Eastern notes continue. She steps onto the platform, the lights flashing from their regular brightness to even brighter. Shakira now holds the fabric from an end of it that seems to have a hard base, like a hand-held fan one would wave in front of them on a warm day. A breeze seems to come from fans built into the platform's floor, for Shakira waves the fabric through the breeze, playing with it, making it do impressive tricks and effects, and she starts to sing the "I'm gonna dance through the veil of your eyes" lines while doing so, apparently skipping the second verse.
As the part of the song ends, and the bridge repeats with less instruments and only hard Middle Eastern drums, she throws the fabric off to the side, and does some belly dancing moves to the drum solos between the lines.
The chorus is played again in full as Shakira happily goes back down the catwalk to the stage. The chorus ends, and for the repeating "You"s, the lights turn to a darker shade of the yellow-orange, before finally turning off as the song ends. The audience cheers in delight, including me and Eric, of course.
After a moment, a lone electric guitar fills the arena, an all too familiar riff. The cheers grow louder.
Te Dejo Madrid
A beat kicks in over the riff, which repeats a few times. The song has been reworked, playing the riff more often and giving Shakira more harmonica moments. Throughout it, the lights go between red and a light blue. The choreography is about the same as previous tours - Shakira still kneels down before the microphone stand and crawls, tells the audience to jump, etc. There is one moment in which she plays with one of the guitar players, playing her harmonica between riffs. This happens a few times before continuing into the finale of the song.
The lights go out again.
The lights come up again, and Shakira greets us all, met with a huge roar from the crowd. "Madison Square Garden, at last", she says. She greets international presidents who have come to see the show, including the president of her own native Colombia. As she continues talking, Shakira tells us that her only wish is for us to have "the best time", and that she's here to please us.
"So have fun, and remember that tonight, I am all yours." She says as she finishes the greeting, and the crowd cheers yet again as the lights go down.
Si Te Vas
In the darkness, a series of guitar notes play. Slowly, the lights turn on, a dark blue. Everyone cheers as the 1998 hit begins the way it always has: Shakira walks forward, singing softly, playing with the side of the face of her guitarist and band leader for the past ten years and beyond, Tim Mitchell. Unlike Te Dejo Madrid, the song doesn't appear to have changed that much at all. Even during the sing-along part, she stays on the main stage, even though the platform would have been a fantastic place for it.
The song ends, and the stage once again goes dark.
A yellow-green, dull light shines over Tim Mitchell as he begins a guitar solo, which is hard to hear at first over the noise of the crowd. But it gets clearer, I recognize a few of the notes, and I gasp, turning to Eric.
"Whenever, Wherever?!" I ask in shock. He nods with a knowing grin, and I look back to the stage as a rock song begins. It sounds almost like Quiero Más, but the notes still coming from Tim's guitar are undeniable. The pop song from 2001 has been transformed like never before. With a build-up from Brendan's drums, Shakira places the microphone in its stand, and begins to sing. Despite the shocking new version of the classic song, I still mouth along to the words. The choreography appears to still be the same.
The pan flute solo now sounds very electronic, but I do the foot-step move as Shakira does, too far caught up into the concert to even care if anyone stares, which I don't think anyone does. This is the place to be a Shakira fan, the place to let it all out. Who is there to judge a Shakira fan at a Shakira concert?
After the line, "lost in my eyes", the chorus does not happen again. Instead, she breaks out into a cover of EMF's "You're Unbelievable". Quite random, but also quite thrilling, and showing me even more that this tour is as creative as I'd hoped. The cover ends, only a few lines, but the rock music continues as Shakira tells her band to bring it down a bit, then walks down the catwalk, telling us that she "Had an idea'. As she proceeds down the walkway, she specifies her idea.
"For women only." She continues, gaining several female cheers. "The guys can watch - we can let them watch, right?" She finally reaches the platform, the lights in its floor illuminating her. "Now, I need all the girls in the house to do this with me. Where are all the girls in the house?"
Even more cheers.
"All right." Shakira continues. She says that she is going to need some help, and then pulls four girls up on stage.
She proceeds to give them a dance lesson involving swinging their hips "Left, right, left", and "Around, around around", and a drop, too. This goes on a few times before the rock music builds up. She tells the girls and everyone to jump, and as everyone does, Shakira runs back along the catwalk to the stage. The girls, without any issue, happily walk off the platform as Shakira sings the chorus of "Whenever, Wherever", back on the main stage. The song finishes, Shakira repeating "the way I feel" a few times, and the electronic flute plays again as she does the hip-shaking, head-arm back and forth move to end the song. With one last instrumental burst, the stage goes dark.
As the lights come back on, Shakira has her red guitar strapped over her shoulder. She introduces the next song by calling it one of her favorites, and that she wrote it on a beach during a night just like this one, with a guitar, and that the song is called "Inevitable". The crowd cheers, and the song begins. It is the exact same as it always has been. The light color scheme is white, red, and blue, at different points of the song. When it ends, Shakira takes off her guitar, and the lights go down again.
Unplugged Session Intro
The lights along the catwalk become red. A woman with long, dark hair in a black dress comes out of the shadows of the main stage, holding yellow flowers before her with both her hands. She walks slowly and solemnly. Beatless music with a slight Mid-East touch plays hauntingly.
When the woman reaches the half-way point of the walkway, she places the flowers on the ground, and Shakira's voice is heard, though she is nowhere to be seen. She's singing "Atini Al-Nay Wa Ghanni", the same song that opened the Oral Fixation Tour. I'm extremely happy to be able to hear this live - another piece of Shakira history not simply limited to speakers or earbuds, but revived for a new experience.
As Shakira sings, the woman in the dress does a dance. There are bangs during the otherwise quiet music, during which the dancer moves as if the music is hurting her. She covers her face and runs her hands through her hair in a distressed manner. As Shakira finishes the Arabic lines, the dancer composes herself. Two Spanish acoustic guitars start playing softly, and the dancer picks up the flowers from the ground and turns around, walking back toward the stage. From the opposite end, Shakira appears, in the same style top as before, only silver now, and also now in an elegant, flowing red dress... the "Gypsy" costume. She is also barefoot, as she will be for the rest of the show.
As the dancer and Shakira get closer to one-another, two cellos from the stage start playing. A light shines on the players, though I did not get their names. The dancer hands the flowers to Shakira, who approaches the platform. Already on the platform, its lights now on, are Shakira's drummer, Brendan, the guitarist, Tim, and another guitarist, whose name I don't know. They are all seated on boxes in a semi-circle around the platform's perimeter. Now, the only lights on are those in the platform, and a few along the catwalk's end, pointing at it. It stays this way until the end of "Gypsy", with the exception of the musical interlude right before it, and of course, the spotlight.
Shakira hands two of the flowers to two different people in the crowd on her way to the platform, and takes a microphone as she starts to sing a song I don't recognize. Eric tells me that it's a Metallica song. I'm happily surprised, and then I send a text to a Metallica-fan-friend, saying "Shakira is currently covering Metallica".
Nothing Else Matters
As Shakira sings, she hands the rest of the flowers to someone in front of the platform, then sits down on a box in the middle of the semi-circle. Brendan starts playing the drums before him. Shakira soon stands up and starts dancing a bit during an instrumental part, and suddenly the beat changes a bit. She starts singing in Spanish.
The new song is "Despedida", one of the two songs Shakira composed for the movie "Love in the Time of Cholera". Shakira stands for the whole song, with no fancy moves or anything of the sort. She simply feels the music, her face changing expression with the lyrics. As the song ends, there's barely a pause as a new beat begins - three rapid claps, and then another a second later... "ba-ba-ba, ba". Shakira starts clapping it, and urges everyone else to do the same. Only moments later, the whole of the arena is clapping this beat, and Shakira starts dancing.
The Gypsy Dance
Shakira starts twirling her dress and her arms, all to the beat, and also to the drums that Brendan is now playing to the beat. There is a pause, and Shakira freezes, and a new beat begins, a series of steady ones - "ba-ba-ba-ba-ba", from Brendan's drums, over and over, five at a time, a second's pause in between. Shakira starts popping her chest every series of notes, met with a huge cheer from the crowd, then starts twirling her dress to the beat - one series of the beats, she twirls it in front of her, another series, behind her. Another pause, and now a very fast beat begins, with no pattern, simply a rapid beat, during which Shakira quickly taps her feet. Yet another pause, another beat for a few moments while Shakira spins her hands, her arms raised, and then another pause.
An even faster beat begins, Shakira twirling her dress even faster, and as this beat comes to a pause, she turns to face Brendan. The beat resumes, and Shakira, her arms raised, forearms pointed towards Brendan, shuffles over to him, and as the beat stops, she swings her leg over him and climbs onto his lap, met with an immense cheer from the crowd. She moves his head back and forth for a moment, and he continues to play the drums, his arms to his side. Shakira pops her chest again, now inches from Brendan's face, and the crowd goes wild.
Shakira stands again, still very close to Brendan, and as Tim and the other guitarist clap, Brendan takes the left and right edges of Shakira's dress with each respective hand, and starts spinning it, Shakira flailing her head and arms back and forth with it, going faster and faster until... she falls to the platform's floor. The clapping of the guitarists stops, and the crowd cheers.
The musical pause stops, as Brendan hits his drums once. Shakira moves a little, but becomes still once again. On the second beat, her arm flies up for a second. A third drum hit, and her chest pops up, and the audience chuckles a bit at the musical CPR. Now Brendan does a drum roll, and Shakira lefts her chest and bends her legs so it almost looks like she is starting to float, her head rolling, and as the roll stops, she drops back down.
Brendan starts doing short bursts of drum rolls, and with each one, Shakira snakes her torso, moving forward with each one, faster and faster, until it becomes a continuous roll, and she suddenly sits up and faces Brendan, "alive" again. The guitars slowly start playing again, and all lights in the platform's floor turn off, with the exception of a few red ones eerily illuminating the guitarists. Shakira steps to the platform's side as they play. Brendan plays his drums to the music, and it comes to a soft close. Shakira approaches a microphone stand at the platform's end, microphone in place, and the spotlight turns on, shining on her. She starts to sing.
"Broke my heart on the road..."
The audience bursts into cheers at the start of the song. Besides a few guitar strums, Shakira is singing nearly in acapella. At the end of the line, "Walking gets to boring, when you learn how to fly", there is a pause, and Shakira pulls a harmonica from the microphone stand's side. She starts playing the harmonica intro to "Gypsy" as an acoustic beat begins, and the crowd once again cheers.
As the harmonica part ends, Shakira continues the verse with, "Not the homecoming kind...". Her two background singers, Olgui, and another who's name I don't know, come down the catwalk and take their places at two microphone stands at the platform's side, microphones in place. Albert, Shakira's concert duet partner and keyboard player, comes forward with an accordion, the violinist comes forward with her violin, and it appears that practically the entire band is on the platform.
The chorus for "Gypsy" begins, the violin taking the place of the Indian sounds between the lines. I'm disappointed the Indian feel of Gypsy is gone, and that the upbeat feeling of the chorus doesn't impact as much, but all in all, this acoustic version of Gypsy seems very nice. After the chorus, Shakira vocally plays around a little with some "Ay ay ay"'s, then continues with the second verse.
After the clap-along part of "Hey, you, you're no fool if you say no", during which Shakira takes the microphone from the stand and walks around the platform a little, she starts singing a song in Spanish. I'm not sure what it is, but I hear the name "Barranquilla" in it, and it gets a cheer from the crowd. It has a nice melody. Shakira then says something to her band, and a second later, the music gets quiet. Shakira sings the chorus of "Gypsy" again, with only guitar strums behind her every few words. The band walks back to the stage, except for the other guitarist (not Tim). As the violinist walks away, she plays behind the chorus, almost sadly.
"And I won't cry, I'm too young to die, if you're gonna quit me" is acapella, and then, after a pause, she ends the song quietly with "'Cause I'm a Gypsy". The guitar plays quietly, and Shakira plays the closing notes from Gypsy on her harmonica. The few lights on the catwalk turn off, but the platform's ones stay on, giving Shakira a strange light. The crowd applauds.
The music-wise quiet doesn't last long. A slight build-up, and a heavy beat begins, all of the lights on the stage and catwalk turning on. Shakira starts popping her chest, and this next song is instantly recognizable.
Albert sings his part of the song from the stage, and right after it, Shakira throws off the Gypsy dress, revealing her black pants. As she sings the first verse, she walks along the platform back to the stage, stopping right before the stage for the bridge. She jumps onto it for the chorus, and from there, it's the same old La Tortura, only with red lights. As it ends, the lights go off.
Only moments later, they come on again, purple, and Shakira sings along with a trumpet.
As the trumpet's famous melody ends, I jump up in the air, and land spot-on with the beat that kicks in. "Ciega, Sordomuda" musically seems to be the same as it has always been, but being one of my favorite Shakira songs, hearing it live is extraordinary. For the chorus, on the screen behind the stage, as opposed to just showing Shakira, the image of shining lights appears, to add to the song's festive feeling. She lip-synchs the chorus, just as she has done for years.
Right before the second chorus, Shakira actually lays down on the short steps leading from the stage to the catwalk, then pops right back up for the chorus itself.
During the trumpet after the second chorus (which I think is playback, even though they try to weirdly pass it off as the violin playing), as opposed to doing the spinning move she's always done, Shakira happily runs down the catwalk, calling to everyone to get up, and places the microphone in the stand still on the platform for the sing along part.
When the guitar solo is played (which repeats once, just like at Rock in Rio), Shakira runs back down the catwalk and onto the stage and plays with the guitarist. Afterwards, the song ends as it always has. "That's right, New York!" Shakira calls out during the last chorus. The stage goes dark.
When the lights come back up, Shakira thanks the presidents that have come to see her show, then introduces her band. However, as opposed to the long introductions of previous tours, she simply lists off the names of the different band members, so quickly in fact that I miss the names of the newer members. A bit of a shame, but I suppose time constraints need to have an effect somewhere.
She then tells us she hopes we remember this next song. I immediately know which song it's going to be, just because of that introduction speech.
Underneath Your Clothes
Absolutely nothing has been changed at all with this song. Shakira simply stays at the microphone pretty much the whole time. It gets a great response from the crowd, due to its popularity, but there's not much to write about it otherwise. A pleasure to hear, though, of course!
After the song ends, Eric tells me that the first half of the show has ended. I wonder if he means just in terms of the number of songs (I hadn't been counting), or if something was now going to change that would stay for the rest of the show. No sooner did I think that when the widescreen behind the stage seems to split into two square halves, a massive space between them. A giant white face appears from the darkness, blank in expression, just... a face.
New music begins, a new intro for "Gordita". Shakira appears, telling of the "virtual presence" of Calle 13's Rene. Suddenly, something is projected onto the face - graphics, and Rene's face. I'm astounded at the creativity behind it.
On the two screen halves on the face's left and right, select words from the song's chorus appear, and during the verses, different angles of Shakira on the stage appear on each side. It is then I realize this second half of the show is going to be much more theatrical than the first.
Nothing has changed in Gordita since past performances, and as the song ends, it gets a happy response from the audience. The lights turn off.
When the lights turn on again, Shakira tells us that she's been feeling different lately. I assume the next song is thus "She Wolf", but Eric says it isn't. Then Shakira says something along the lines of that the sun came out for her, and I excitedly realize that the next song is going to be one of my favorites of the more recent releases, "Sale el Sol".
Sale el Sol
And Sale el Sol it is.
Shakira tells us that inside all of us, there's a sun that will never extinguish. With that, she introduces the song, and it begins.
Projected onto the face is a tear sometime in the song's beginning, but later on, a rising sun. Although musically, there's nothing different, hearing this song live gives one a very happy feeling beyond language barriers. It's just that kind of song. Her voice is also extremely spot on, more so than it had been before, when it was still amazing.
During the rock instrumental, the lights all around the stage flash sporadically. Then, as the song ends, the lights turn off, but the face still stays illuminated. Sun rays on the screens off to its sides seem to come out of it, and they start to flash on and off quickly.
They then turn green. During this, ambient music plays. The green rays, for a moment, transform into lines of dots, then vanish as the next song begins, getting a great cheer from the audience.
Las de la Intuicion
Blue light covers the stage as the song fans have wanted to be on tour for so long is finally played. Various animated, multi-colored patterns appear on the screens and face. Shakira appears, now dressed in baggy yellow pants with black spots, a mini-skirt-thing of the same pattern, and what seems like a black bra with yellow on its front. She stays on the main stage for the whole song.
As the arena again falls into darkness after the song, the lights come back on just as suddenly, now a bright orange-yellow. A repeating trumpet melody is heard, and Shakira appears again, introducing two female background dancers.
She calls them "loca"s.
The familiar beat begins, and Shakira and the dancers perform a very exciting and original dance to the song as it is performed. Spinning yellow and red lines are projected onto the face hanging above them.
The song has been remixed a bit to edit out the rap, which I don't miss at all. As it ends with one last "loca" from Shakira, the lights and mask go out.
A deep tone and electronic noises begin, followed swiftly by tribal drums. This introduction from the 2010 Rock in Rio's and Glastonbury is instantly recognizable, and Eric and I shout a couple "Awoooooo"'s in anticipation.
Eyes are projected onto the face's otherwise blank ones.
Animalistic eyes, changing color.
The eyes of a hungry wolf.
The tribal drums get faster and faster, building up ferociously as the eyes on the mask start to flash. The build up gets so intense that I can almost feel it in the air, lasting much longer than it had at the Rock in Rio's and Glastonbury. Finally it ends, a lone wolf howl sounding, and the crowd roars. A siren and a beat begin.
As the beat gets heavier and the siren echoes throughout the stadium, blue light fills the stage, though Shakira, now waving her arms in the air, standing in the center of the main stage, remains a silhouette. The siren, getting louder and louder, stops with the beat, the lights turn green, and the all-too familiar electronic notes that begin "She Wolf" are heard. The audience cheers, the spotlight turns on and shines on Shakira, now wearing a skin-colored bra as opposed to the black one, and the thumping beat to "She Wolf" begins. She goes through the usual "She Wolf" choreography for the intro. Light patterns flash onto the face, though the wolf eyes remain.
Although the song and moves appear to be exactly the same as previous performances, hearing the electronic notes and heavy beat live is incredible.
For the chorus, Shakira runs onto the catwalk, and the two background dancers come out and join her, staying there with her until the second chorus, during which they return to the main stage. Needless to say, the entire stadium "Awoooooooo"s.
Also during the second chorus, the woman-against-the-glass silhouettes from the Rock in Rio's appear across the two screens on the face's sides. All choruses are, as usual, on playback.
As the song ends with Shakira's breath, the lights turn off. Shortly after, a low note begins.
Yellow lights turn on.
A Middle Eastern violin starts playing.
My heart skips a beat, and I grab Eric's shoulder for a moment before both my hands cover my mouth.
The yellow lights search through the stadium like spotlights themselves.
The violin melody ends.
A symbol build up begins.
The past five years of my life flash before my eyes.
The build up ends, and with a slight bang, the violin plays again, playing a melody I've heard countless times before, but never live. Purple lights turn on among the yellow ones, and Shakira appears, again as a silhouette. She is still for a moment as the violin's exotic Middle Eastern melody plays, ambient music behind it, then raises her arms and snakes them down her sides, until she is still once again. The violin's melody ends, and with a crash, the beat begins.
The beat that I clap to hit-for-hit.
Shakira's hips swing side to side with each one. The drums that used to do this part are no longer light Middle Eastern ones, but heavier ones, and I feel each one in the air.
The beat continues, and the melody before the guitar intro begins, played by what sounds like a slightly warped electric guitar. Shakira snakes her arms up and then her hands down, then snakes her arms to her sides. Then she raises her right hand and snakes it along her side as her body itself snakes, and the beat gets heavier, purple light flashing with each hit, revealing Shakira for mere milliseconds at a time. Both her hands meet and raise up, and with five triumphant beats, she lowers them and splits them apart in front of her neck. The guitar intro that I know so well is played, and the spotlight shines on Shakira.
She is still wearing the skin-colored bra, but gone are the yellow pants. Now she is wearing a split animal-print skirt, and also a black skirt under it, and over the animal print one... a belly dancing scarf.
She walks over to the microphone stand, microphone in place, and walks it over to the center of the stage. With one last roll of her stomach, she starts to sing.
"Ayer conocí un cielo sin sol, y un hombre sin suelo..."
She sings the verses beautifully, but to my amazement, the music to them has changed, and changed drastically at that. There is now a beat behind them, and the little accordion tune between the lines is there no more. As the verse ends, I sing the "ya hey"''s loudly and proudly, still no match against the music. The actual "ya hey"'s are live, and I'm thrilled about this.
The chorus sounds about the same. The moves are the same, the beat is a bit heavier, a violin plays along to it, and the background vocals are more noticeable, but nothing much different other than that.
The Arabic chant is live, too, and again, even as I sing it myself, my voice vanishes in the music. The bridge is on playback, and during it, Shakira snakes her torso a bit and plays with her hair.
As the second verse is sung, the beat is even heavier, an electric guitar is behind it, and she pulses her stomach during it. The accordion tune is again gone. She sings it well, but it's certainly no Dubai.
Throughout the song, exotic patterns are projected onto the face, including bright eyes, and a third, vertical eye on its forehead.
As the second batch of "ya hey"'s are heard, Shakira does the usual routine of taking the microphone off the stand and walking along the stage to its end, pointing at someone in the audience. As the chorus begins, she, still true to form, crosses the stage, shaking her hips and clapping her hands. It's not until the bridge that things really, really change.
There is no playback on the bridge. In fact, Shakira doesn't even sing it at all. She places the microphone in its stand and walks half-way down the catwalk as the violin does it for her. The heavier beat continues, and Shakira does the usual pre-dance-break moves - snake arms and all. Hearing it done with a live violin is magnificent.
Finally, as the time for the dance break comes, Shakira speeds backwards down the rest of the catwalk, until she's on the platform. The drums begin, and at first, the moves are the same, but the music is... different. And then the moves change, too.
To my shock, she really has reinvented Ojos Así. The new dance break is very long, and in segments of different tempos. I love it, and it even incorporates some moves of the original, but I can't help but miss the classic music a bit. Still, as Shakira flips forward and the music changes, I'm happy that the song once again returns to form. The violin plays the usual sad melody as Shakira rises, holding up her hair, moving her head back and forth. She does the backbend, too. As she rises again, snaking her left hand across her face, the background singers sing their lines of the chorus, not once, but twice without Shakira singing between them. Finally, Shakira does sing, a microphone stand on the platform for her, and the chorus plays for what I think is the last time, the beat resuming. Hands stretch out on the screens on the face's sides, seemingly coming from the face itself. Shakira takes the microphone and goes back down the catwalk, spinning a couple times, then places the microphone in the stand on the main stage. The chorus repeats, to my surprise, again. Finally, on the word "tu", Shakira points forward, raises her arm, snakes her hand down and lets her head fall back as the song ends.
Twice during it, I had come close to crying.
I have just heard Ojos Así live, for the first time.
Wanting an Encore
Shakira thanks us all and wishes us a good night, but we're smarter than that. The crowd continues to cheer, and although I know there will be an encore, I have no idea just how much she will make us beg for it.
For a good five minutes, or so it feels, there are chants of "Shakira!" and non-stop cheering and clapping. Finally, the stage goes completely dark, and the audience goes nuts.
Shakira appears in a shockingly familiar dress. A flowing, elegant blue one, looking just like one from a previously mysterious photo shoot. She approaches the microphone and its stand, and starts to sing in Spanish.
Antes de las Seis
Having only heard the studio version once while waiting for the show to start, I really don't notice how much Shakira has changed the song, if at all. All I know is that she looks beautiful, and as the chorus begins, snow begins to fall from somewhere above the stage, adding an other-worldly effect to the song.
The tune itself is absolutely beautiful, not too heavy, but not too soft. During one point in the song, I notice a certain tribal-looking, long dress under the current blue one. It has some touches of pink in it, a modern twist on an otherwise primitive looking dress from somewhere like... Africa.
"Antes de las Seis" ends, and the stage goes dark.
After another minute or two of applause, a spotlight shines on Albert, who is at his keyboard, playing it softly. Although I know Eric and I, and perhaps a few others in the arena, know exactly what this next song is, I eagerly anticipate the roar of the rest of the crowd when Shakira will start to sing the lyrics to it. As Albert plays some finishing notes and trails off, Shakira appears out of the darkness. She's wearing the tribal dress I'd noticed before, and again, the skin-colored bra.
As Albert again starts playing on his keyboard, she starts to sing...
"Oh baby, when you talk like that..."
Hips Don't Lie
At the singing of the lines, the audience goes just as crazy as I'd hoped. As Shakira finishes with, "reading the signs of my body", the piano again trails off, there is a pause, and the beat of "Hips Don't Lie" kicks in hard, fast, and just as fun in person as it always was on screen.
Throughout the song, the lights change through what seems like all of their colors. Shakira stays on the main stage during the main part of the song, and the choreography hasn't changed, though she does shout out to the audience a lot more. The two background dancers help add to the song's festive feeling. During the cumbia part, I do the hand motions Shakira does when she usually has a winged dress, which she doesn't have this time.
Shakira keeps the "I'm on tonight!" extension and dance break, both of which take place on the catwalk and platform. For the final chorus, she and Albert run back to the main stage to finish the song, which ends with a slight build up and a bang. The lights go down as Shakira walks off.
The face seems to vanish as the screen behind the stage becomes whole again. A huge video is projected onto it in outstanding HD quality - a video of African children telling of their dreams. One boy is holding a soccer ball, which gets an enthusiastic response from the crowd. As the video wraps up, Shakira's voice is heard singing the incredibly powerful note that begins her most recent hit.
The stage lights up, and as the "Otra"'s are played, much deeper and more powerful than previous versions, Shakira, dressed the same as she was in "Hips Don't Lie" only moments earlier, encourages the entire audience to jump, which we all do. The lights flash yellow, green, red - "Waka Waka" feeling colors. The song also has not been changed, but has an incredibly happy and festive feel to it nonetheless. Me, Eric, and others in the crowd do the Waka Waka with the chorus. Right before the Freshlyground part, which Olgui does masterfully, fans and children come out onto the stage. The song reaches its finale, and I do the jump-kick part at the end as best as I can in the limitations of my seat. For the final chorus, yellow, green, and pink confetti explode and fly all around the arena.
With one last "We are all Africa", the band starts playing its instrumental closer as Shakira bows and thanks us all. She runs down the catwalk to the platform, blows kisses all over, touches some fans' hands, bows, then runs back to the stage, where she jumps and bows again, blowing more kisses. With one last wave, she runs over to her right and off stage, and my eyes follow her until she is completely out of sight.
The band continues its finale until ending with one last bang. The last pieces of confetti fall as the crowd roars louder than ever. As the music stops, I find myself standing still, as if I had just been thrust from an exhilarating world suddenly back into reality. The lights of the entire arena come back up, and as people start to leave, I continue standing for a moment, speechless.
Eric tries to talk to me, and vice versa, but our hearing is so incredibly muffled that it is impossible to understand one-another. As the crowd gets thinner, we go past the blue border and approach the platform where Shakira had been only moments before. Eric and I take each-other's picture with it. Here's mine:
I run my hand along the platform's surface. None of the staff around seems to have an issue with that, and touching it, strange as it sounds, is an incredible experience.
She was right here! I think.
As Eric and I walk away, I take another picture of the stage:
With that, and one last long look at the arena, we leave.
Part V: Aftermath
Eric and I walk through the Garden's lobbies and finally reach a roofed area outside, what seems to be the Garden's main entrance. "Whenever, Wherever" is playing over the speakers, and without hesitation, for the heck of it, Eric and I do the arm movements from the music video during the chorus, and the foot-move to the pan flute, much to the amusement of people nearby.
I feel as if I'd just ran a mile, and the fresh, cool air of New York City welcomes me. The moving graphic advertising Shakira's concert plays on the screen outside the Garden, showing clips from "Live & Off the Record", "Oral Fixation Tour", and even one shot from the Laundry Service Release Party.
As Eric and I go down the stairs and reach the sidewalk, walking by people offering unofficial tour shirts (but sadly, much better ones at that), we take a right and walk away from the Garden. We pass a group of thugs only a minute later, the Garden and leaving crowd still only steps away. One of them tells us he has a "Shakira question", but of course, Eric and I keep walking. The thug and his friends start shouting at us as we continue walking away from them... and I notice something.
The voices aren't getting farther away.
"Walk faster." I say quietly to Eric, and walk faster we do. As we reach a large group of pedestrians, the angry voices finally begin to fade away. Only then do I realize we're going the wrong way. Eric and I cross the street and head back the other way, walk past the Garden one last time, and shortly after, reach Times Square. Eric, having never been here before, fills up the small amount of remaining space on his camera's memory card with pictures of the Square's bright lights, the rest of the memory filled up with brilliant pictures and video from the show.
Finally, we head off to where we're staying. From the moment the show ended, it was clear we were going to be late, our deadline being midnight. We arrive at about 12:15 to 12:30 and apologize to our host, who doesn't mind and shows us where things are around her apartment. The walk there had been pleasant, Eric showing his knowledge of history by explaining the meaning behind some of the street names we walked by.
Now, standing in the living room of our host's apartment, we can finally take a deep breath. The chanter has just gone to bed. Eric will sleep on the couch, me on the sofa bed of another couch, we decide. As I go to change and brush my teeth, scenes from the past day flash by my mind rapidly. As I return to the living room, Eric is already asleep. A wild day indeed.
I turn off the lights, climb into the sofa bed, and look out the window for a moment, taking in the view of the beautiful City. Then I lay down, and I'm asleep within minutes.
Part VI: The Next Day
I wake up at about 7:15 AM, the New York sun shining on me through the window. Eric is already long gone, his train home having departed at 6:00. I get out of bed, change, eat, brush up, thank the chanter and her husband, and leave. The bus back to Hartford isn't until about 1:15 PM. It is time for a day to myself, in my favorite place in the world. Independence at its best.
I immediately head to Times Square, but on the way there, I pass something Eric and I had seen on the walk to the chanter - a sign for "S", right outside of a beauty shop. Waiting patiently for a pause in the seemingly never-ending sidewalk traffic, I now manage to take a picture:
In the light of day and time being an ally, as opposed to a pressuring enemy, I can see inside the closed store. The "S" lotion sits on a shelf for $40-something. Smiling, I continue on to Times Square.
Back in 2007, I'd seen a King Tut exhibit in Philadelphia, at the Franklin Institute. Its current stop is now right off of Times Square, and I go to see it again. It is just as awesome!
As 12:30 PM approaches, I realize it is time to head back to the Port Authority. As I finally reach the massive building, I take one last look and picture of the great New York City:
And with that, I step inside.
Part VII: Conclusion
Needless to say, during the concert, I sang along to every song, even the Spanish ones, to the best of my ability, and jumped to every jumpable song. The experience is still, as I write this, beyond words, which is why there was more description of the actual show than my own mind's thought process. I don't know if I'll ever be able to explain how I felt during those hours, and even during those two days in New York as a whole. However, I do know I will remember them for a very, very long time.
I'd like to give IMMENSE thanks to the anonymous-wishing Shakiraholic who gave me the tickets in the first place. You know who you are, and you have no idea, even after reading this, how much those two days meant to me, and I owe them all to you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Next, thanks to Eric for his friendship and the great time we had. I can't imagine the show would have been as fun with anyone else.
Thanks to Xavi for taking the time to meet with Eric and I. Xavi, you're a great person with a great heart for the fans.
To the community of Shakiraholics and Shakiramedia, thanks to all of you for being there with me these past years to nurture my fandom into what it is today.
And finally, thanks to Shakira for making this all even possible in the first place. You're an incredible artist and person, and I wish you all the best.
Edited by rpvee, 27 September 2010 - 05:03 PM.