She sings. She struts. She skips. And she trots out some pretty generic stage moves to go along with her big, high-concept numbers that are influenced by Mid-Eastern and Indian culture.
But Shakira is probably not deserving of the lampooning she got in the romantic comedy "Music & Lyrics." Look past the gimmicks and glitz, ignore some pretty awful choreography (like her lapsing into "robot" moves in at least four separate songs) and it's easy to see why this Colombian singer is the biggest Latina entertainer on the planet.
Yes, she's drop-dead gorgeous, but she's also a bona-fide talent. She writes most of her own lyrics and music, co-choreographs it, plays rhythm guitar for some of it, and even breaks out a harmonica at one point. A harmonica. Name one other female pop singer in this era of overly-produced sounds, voices, and shows that has the cojones (or the female equivalent) to do that!
At a time when so many singers have had their tracks as touched up as their photographs, Shakira, who is barefoot throughout, gives you an honest concert that has her shifting gears with her voice so many times that you have to admire her willingness to deviate from the processed music that dominates the industry today. Some of the sounds she makes have got to be an acquired taste-like a guttural warble she does on occasion, or the way she sings from the diaphragm other times. She's not afraid to change personalities as well as voices, especially when she leans against a piano for a quiet ballad or sits in an acoustic circle to do a plain, simple, but pretty song.
When you watch some of the bonus features that accompany this concert video, you begin to realize that she's as interested in making music her way as she is in trying to satisfy her audience's tastes and expectations, so that the concert seems like a negotiation or compromise. But she certainly knows how to play to a crowd, holding up the microphone frequently to let the audience sing and being openly flirtatious with the mixed crowd of all ages. She also knows how to sustain the energy, opting for the first costume change after the ninth song, when other pop singers would have already gone through several outfits by then (while their bands played to buy them time).
As concert videos go, this one has both good and bad. There are far too many shots from behind the crowd showing those lighters held high and waving, and some of the reaction shots seem too quick. But for a concert that could have been a cinematographer's nightmare, with all the red-orange-pink-purple lights, streaming spotlights, smoke and assorted pyrotechnics, this "Oral Fixation Tour" concert video is surprisingly sharp. Partly that's because of the camera angles. Only once does the cameraman shoot directly into the offending lights, and that's when we see graininess and haloing. The rest of the time we're seeing the concert from angles that circumvent the lighting problems.
The sound is another matter. Shakira's microphone is set higher than her back-up singers so consistently that you have to guess it's the singer's preference. But if I was guest artist Alejandro Sanz or Wyclef Jean, I'd be furious with Ms. Shakira. Both men had to practically shout into their microphones, and hers was still five times louder. We're not talking about egos at that point. It was so bad that these duets just didn't sound right at all. That's my biggest complaint about "Shakira: Oral Fixation Tour."
This concert was filmed at the American Airlines Arena in Miami in December of 2006, and so there's a mixture of English and Spanish, both in terms of the songs and the introductions to them. Don't look for any help in translation, either. Just relax and pretend you're at the concert, watching her perform:
2) Estoy Aqui
3) Te Dejo Madrid
4) Don't Bother
6) Hey You
8) Si Te Vas
9) La Tortura (with Alejandro Sanz)
11) Whenever, Wherever
12) La Pared
13) Underneath Your Clothes
14) Pies Descalzos
15) Ojos Asi
16) Hips Don't Lie (with Wyclef Jean)
The English titles are sung in English and given English introductions, and the Spanish titles are done likewise in that language. With Ben Peeler on guitar, Brendan Buckley on drums, Archie Pena on percussion, Jon Button on bass, and Albert Menendez on keyboards, Shakira delivers a great-sounding concert. But as I said, the choreography was pretty uninspired, and it's not just me thinking so. I watched this one with my daughter, who teaches Spanish and uses concert videos in her classroom, and she was just as disappointed. There were too many robot moves, too many hip thrusts, and not enough of the signature belly-dancing moves that set Shakira apart from the rest of the pop-pack. Too much of the time she simply strutted, half-skipped, or tossed her hair like any other pop diva. But take away the two guest-songs with that poor soundboard mixing and you've got a strong concert that sounds great in LPCM 2.0 concert (which is the default) or, if you prefer, the LPCM 5.1 surround.
As I said, this concert could have been a real mess on film, but you have to credit director Nick Wickham and his photographers for coming up with a sharp picture. I've only seen this in Blu-ray, so I have nothing to compare it with, but the visual quality really impressed me. Colors are vivid, without the kind of bleed you often get with diffuse stage lighting and smoke-effects, and except for that one noticeable frame you don't get any of the haloing that's often a by-product of glitzy concerts like this. It looks fantastic in 1080p-so 3-D plasticine that when you look at Shakira's exposed belly (as her attire invites you to do), it seems like a page from a glossy magazine.
I have no complaints here except for the two songs with guest artists. What was Shakira or her soundboard people thinking? It's just a bad mix. The rest of the soundtrack is thankfully well-balanced, rich, and full, with high and low notes equally sharp and precise. As with most concert videos this one was recorded at a high volume. The featured soundtracks are an English or Spanish LPCM 2.0 or 5.1. The former gives you stage-like sound, coming from just the front center and main speakers, while the latter gives you the full surround. You'll hear drums coming from the rear speakers, for example. It's all a matter of taste, because both tracks are decently produced. For those who can't get the uncompressed sound there's also a standard Dolby Digital 5.1. I frankly don't understand the language choices, though, because whether you select English or Spanish all you really change is the language on the menu. The concert is part English and part Spanish, and that doesn't change.
The bonus features are a bit of a tease. "Around the World in 397 Days" sounds like a major documentary, but it really just zooms in for some behind-the-scenes footage and a few concert clips of Shakira & Co. in Mumbai (India), Cairo (Egypt), and Miami, where the concert was shot. When the feature begins "397 days, over 2.5 million people, 125 shows, 40 countries, 5 continents," you just expect more. The footage that's here is great, though when you see Shakira in a Muslim country with her head and famous exposed belly covered, you'd like to hear some comment by her. No voiceover, though. Just edited footage. The other feature is also a tease. "Barefoot" shows the star returning to her home town of Barranquilla, Colombia, to do a big benefit concert to raise money to build a school in one of the most impoverished areas. We also see clips of her doing UNICEF work, and hear Shakira talk briefly (in English) about her life and life's work. Some behind-the-scenes rehearsal footage reveals some of her personality, and fans will be happy to see that it's warm and unassuming, but I wanted more. I'm guessing fans will feel the same way.
There's also a brief music video clip, "Las De La Intuicion" that shows the diva in blue hair and vinyl, along with a song (rough video and sound) not included in the Miami concert, "Obtener Un Si," and a different version of "La Pared" that focuses more on the piano player. Rounding out the video bonus features is an HD photo gallery.
A bonus CD features the Intro, Estoy Aqui, Don't Bother, Inevitable, La Pared, and Hips Don't Lie.
Some not-so-good choreography and some spotty soundboard mixing mar an otherwise energetic and enjoyable concert from this Latina pop icon. But "Shakira: Oral Fixation Tour" looks great in Blu-ray.