Pop : Gabriel Rises Above Surprise

She looked younger and thinner, her voice was at its best, the band was tight and the sound was perfect. Mexico's Ana Gabriel was charmingly in control of things at the Universal Amphitheatre on Saturday. Then she fell off the stage.

Midway through the third song of her first area show in two years, and seconds after accepting flowers and gifts from her fans at the edge of the stage, Gabriel twisted her ankle and went down into the pit, microphone and all.

It was an awkward moment, but after about 10 seconds she managed to find the mike and resume singing from the floor. She returned to the stage, obviously hurt, and when the song ended she turned around and the lights went off while she took a few seconds to collect herself.

Gabriel then explained to the supportive audience that she had had foot surgery two months ago.

"This is the first time I'm wearing heels since," she said. "I'll ask your permission to take my shoes off or else I won't be able to move."

The Sinaloa-born Gabriel then went on to deliver a stirring 30-song performance that confirmed her status as one of Latin America's best and most eclectic singer-songwriters--and a serious professional able to overcome nasty surprises.

Known for her powerful, raspy voice and intense interpretive skills, Gabriel sounded even better live than on record. Fall and all, she left the impression that she is getting closer to superstardom.

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