Live review: Shakira at Staples Center
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“I’m crazy, but you like it,” Shakira sang Saturday night at Staples Center, and here was a bold untruth from the woman known around the world for her 2006 smash “Hips Don’t Lie.”
Shakira wasn’t fibbing about her audience’s adoration: Fans joined her in roaring singalongs throughout Saturday’s two-hour concert, no more enthusiastically than when the Colombian-born artist sang in Spanish.
Yet in an international pop scene crowded with adventurous ladies — think Rihanna, M.I.A. and, of course, Lady Gaga, whose outré wardrobe Shakira seemed to borrow starting when she arrived onstage wearing a churchy hot-pink get-up — Shakira evinces an unusually thoughtful equilibrium. It’s a trait she’s used in conjunction with her signature moves to work her way not only into arenas but also into the United Nations, where last month she joined Colombia’s president to emphasize the importance of early-childhood education.
So, crazy? Far from it.
Backed by an eight-piece band that cycled through instruments like the singer did costumes, Shakira sang not only about sexual desire and romantic longing but also about her hometown of Barranquilla and — in “Waka Waka,” this summer’s well-traveled World Cup anthem — about how “we are all Africa.” The music made an even more expansive claim than that, zipping from the rousing folk-rock of “Inevitable” to the pulsing synth patterns in ‘Las de la Intuición’ to a muscular grunge-metal rendition of “Whenever, Wherever,” the 2001 hit that triggered Shakira’s crossover to the English-speaking market.
As though demonstrating the ongoing nature of that crossover, Shakira segued ‘Whenever, Wherever’ into ‘Unbelievable’ by the English dance-rock group EMF, then drew four women from the crowd for an impromptu belly-dancing lesson. The singer performed Metallica’s ‘Nothing Else Matters’ too, re-imagining the song as a fluttering Latin ballad; one of her guitarists strummed a small charango while she twirled in a floor-length gypsy skirt.
None of this canny, headstrong globalism prevented Shakira from showing off her appealingly goofy side, as in the disco-inflected title track from last year’s ‘She Wolf,’ during which she donned a pair of Day-Glo leopard-print pants and led the audience in a series of cartoon howls. For ‘Gordita,’ from her excellent new album, “Sale el Sol,” Shakira brought onstage René Pérez Joglar (a.k.a. Residente) of Puerto Rico’s Calle 13, and the two engaged in a flirty back-and-forth that revealed the street-smart club kid beneath Shakira’s refined stateswoman veneer.
Even then, though, the singer never quite embodied the kind of abandon we might expect from a crazy person; she carefully navigated the tune’s quick rhythmic turns and directed knowing looks toward the cameras projecting her image onscreen behind her. A midriff-baring social strategist, Shakira was carrying out a plan, skillfully and with no shortage of superstar charisma.
-- Mikael Wood