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Shakira’s Stomach Sizzles

Tour of the Mongoose: Shakira’s Boston Debut

By Devdoot Majumdar

Staff Writer



Nov. 30, 8 p.m.

Her concert captured all of the requisite gaudiness of a FleetCenter concert -- pyrotechnics, confetti, blinding lighting effects, and two-second costume changes. And yet Shakira’s Saturday night showdown in Boston lacked a certain coherence and redeeming sumptuousness that one might expect from a $68 concert. Featuring repertoire from before and after the Latin superstar’s English-speaking debut, Laundry Service, Shakira’s performance was palatable for longtime fans and slightly less so for those not as acquainted with her style.

Decked in body-clenching pants and a leather bikini top, belly exposed, she made her entrance to an arena filled with fans from within an enormous metal cobra, straight from the set of Conan. Her tour was christened the “Tour of the Mongoose” without too much regard for either aesthetics or practicality. And so, over and over, the theme of the mongoose -- be it through her rodent-like motions at the base of the stage or through a video of a mongoose and cobra killing one another -- pervaded. By grace of MTV’s trademarked contrivance, the culmination of the show was the text “Bite the neck of hatred,” just like the mongoose with the snake!

Like at most concerts underwritten by MTV, one couldn’t miss the Pepsi, Reebok, and MTV commercials bridging the gap between the opening act, Pay the Girl, and Shakira.

Throughout the concert, Shakira demonstrated her musical prowess, not only through her effortless yet powerful vocals, but also with brief stints on both the guitar and drums. Like the music of many pop stars, though, the schizophrenic quality of her song’s genres prevented the concert from ever settling into a groove. The concert featured an acoustic Latin phase, a “rock it out” phase, and the predominant pop-star phase, with some reggae and audience-pleasing belly dancing thrown in for kicks.

Shakira played all but three of the 13 songs on her Laundry Service, notably closing the evening with the English version of “Wherever, Whenever.” Though they were sung very much at the caliber of her recorded presence, both the clamorous acoustics of the FleetCenter and the mild audience response to all but the hit singles muddled the performance.

Perhaps the two things that motivated cheers out of the audience were her popular Latin hits and the occasions when she would slink her tantalizing body into any sort of provocative position. On the note of her Latin favorites, she managed to smack out versions of her “Ciega, Sordomunda,” “Si Te Vas,” “Inevitable,” and “Octavo Dia” from 1998’s Donde EstÁn los Ladrones, and “Estoy AquÍ” and “Un Poco De Amor” from 1996’s Pies Descalzos. Delivered with the finesse of the original recordings, and very much to the gratification of the audience, this handful of hits was the highlight of the evening, showcasing the true mettle of Shakira’s voice.

The true down point of the evening began with a video interlude that ended with the line “Rock and roll will never die.” From there, Shakira made the mistake of embarking on Aerosmith’s “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” and AC/DC’s “Back in Black,” leading into her own Lauper-like “Rules.” Despite some audience sympathy, the atrocity of “Shakira does rock metal” -- complete with harmonica and guitar -- was definitely not worth repeating. The culmination, however, was “Shakira the stripper,” as she doused the audience a la fluorescent pink runway. The belly dancing bears its own mystique, but she truly completed the mongoose theme while flailing about on the bars as she did to the tune of “Back in Black.”

Theatrics aside, a concert is about one thing -- the music. And nowhere in the concert could one refute the sheer power, welcoming consistency, or emotional vicissitudes that guided her voice. At times, the rapid-fire of lyrics that punctuates some of Shakira’s songs was lost to the poor sound of the FleetCenter. In “Estoy AquÍ,” the two seconds it takes Shakira to say “entre fotos y cuandernos entre cosas y recuerdos que no puedo comprender” was little more than a blurry mumble due to the poor acoustics. But the defining, Cher-like manner in which Shakira opens her mouth in what seems to be the most uncomfortable positions and pops out words strewn with odd accents was easily discernable Saturday night.

Despite cheesy on-stage theatrics and a regrettable foray into AC/DC metal, the basic characteristics of Shakira’s International Pop Star image managed to shine through. With a handful of quality songs and some charming belly exhibitionism, Shakira’s first Boston concert leaves a plethora of diehard fans awaiting the next.