San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Technical difficulties fail to derail Shakira’s song and (belly) dance

Only three songs into her set, and already the stadium Shakira was here to promote began to overshadow her in the worst way possible. The front-of-house sound system powered down in the middle of a song and giant video screens went blank. Shakira, bless her writhing hips, kept on singing and gyrating to a near-full stadium that could not hear her. A few minutes later, a stage manager told her to stop playing.

The National Stadium, a $100 million gift from China, had faltered on the final night of its two-week inauguration ceremony. Some government officials in the audience (Laura Chinchilla’s new Presidency Minister Carlos Ricardo Benavides was reportedly on hand) may have been wondering if their new gift measured up to international concert standards, as advertised.

But after a 15-minute delay, Shakira returned showing no ill toward the “boos” that had arisen earlier from a crowd already restless after the concert started 45 minutes late. She told her fans: “San José, tonight I am all yours,” then returned to a set that lasted two hours and included hits like “Pienso en ti” (“Thinking of you”), “Suerte” (“Luck”), “Loca” (“Crazy”), “Hips Don’t Lie” and “Waka Waka.”

One of the facets of Shakira that helps her stand out in the bubbly, overloaded world of pop is that she throws little kinks into what could be another bland made-for-radio hit. She uses those same flourishes to keep her concert fresh.

The first plot twist of the night came as the Colombian singer covered Metallica’s mainstay “Nothing Else Matters.” Backed by a percussionist playing traditional Colombian drums and a violinist, Shakira turned the metal ballad into her own melodic, stringed folk song. It was hypnotic, albeit slightly out of place. During Metallica’s 25 years of touring, frontman James Hetfield likely never belly danced to his own music.

But Shakira can’t resist any chance to show off those abs. And it’s not just because the 34-year old singer looks fabulous. No pop star can move quite like she can. Whether in black leather pants or heinous green leopard print duds (which she always paired with some midriff-baring sparkly top), knows how to shake what she’s got like no other. The Colombian singer has Lebanese roots, and Middle Eastern belly dancing combined with Latin rhythms makes for quite a lively show, particularly for the audience of mostly teenage girls and their watchful mothers.

Each movement is deliberate and sensual, and yet so rigid that her dancing seems like a far-too-erotic version of the Robot. Of course that doesn’t give her enough credit. The moves are hypnotizing. Her act is not just novelty. She proved that during the last song of her set before the encore, “Ojos Asi” (“Eyes Like Yours”), when she came out dressed as a belly dancer and twirled, twisted and leg kicked across the stage in a seductive display of choreography.
The song choices represented Shakira both old and new. She wooed the crowd with last year’s chart topper “Loba” (“She-wolf”), a kitschy song dripping with sexuality and a chorus punctuated by heavy panting and howls of “Ahoooo.”

In other instances, she’d play guitar and show off her screechy Alanis Morissette vocals, throwbacks to her earlier albums. Sometimes she’d let another performer take centerstage. After contorting to “Loba,” Shakira let her violinist play a furious 4-minute solo that felt straight from the Sahara Desert. Shakira dedicated the “The Sun Comes Out” tour’s namesake song, “Sale el Sol,” to one of her idols, Argentine rock star Gustavo Cerati, who fell into a coma after suffering a stroke last year. Her performance ended in a bizarre act of adulation for her fallen friend as Shakira ripped her top off, leaving her in just a skin-colored bra. What can you expect? The Colombian singer is a diva.

During the encore, Shakira opened up with her most popular English-language song “Hips Don’t Lie” before closing the show with “Waka Waka,” the official song of last year’s World Cup.

The effusive tune is one of those numbers that tries to pull out all stops in live performances, confetti cannons and all. Children dancing on stage. Video of African children telling the world what they want to be when they grow up. Ticos enthusiastically chanting “Africa!” It’s the type of spectacle designed to cement Shakira’s status as an international star. And stadium electricity malfunctions and poor sound and acoustics be damned, Shakira did her best to pump energy into that arena all night long,

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