SHAKIRA, Wembley Arena – Evening Standard, 19 March 2007

With a cry of “Arriba London!”, a flurry of hair and the first of many thrusts of the hardest working hips in showbusiness, Shakira set about bringing some real Latin fire to town.

Most of Spanish-speaking London was there to greet her, to judge by the number of Mexican, Venezuelan and most of all, Colombian flags being flown throughout the audience.

Shakira Ripoll, from Barranquilla, Colombia, may have charmed the UK and US with a couple of English-language albums, but her core fans knew about her singular talents long before we caught up. Refusing to compromise her setlist for the benefit of those of us not draped in yellow, red and blue, the vast majority of the songs she performed were in her native tongue. It made them hard to identify, but it was easy to tell that we have been missing out. Giant choruses, vibrant rhythms and powerful guitars caused mass dancing even if the language barrier prevented a mass singalong.

Shakira, barefoot and sporting a range of midriff-revealing outfits, was never still. She pinged around the stage, sometimes dancing with dazzling skills that must have taken years to perfect, sometimes just bouncing up and down like a child who has been granted ice cream.

She flirted with her cameraman, who took navel-gazing to a new level with the extent to which he concentrated on filming her hypnotic bellybutton, and ran her fingers through the hair of her guitarist, who wore the goofy grin of a man well aware he has the best job in the world.

But she was far from a superficial show pony, ably playing guitar and harmonica and singing in a startling vibrato yodel that was so powerful she could have done without the microphone.

Unlike shows by more conventional pop divas, the evening was almost completely pyrotechnics-free, and her impressive band was centre-stage rather than hidden in the shadows. Dancers finally appeared to turn her fabulous number one, Hips Don’t Lie, into a Bollywood-style extravaganza, but before then the singer was more than capable of holding the attention.

Having begun her career in telenovelas, she was a fine actress, looking genuinely moved during an acoustic Illegal. This was the 100th show of her world tour, so she could be forgiven for going through the motions, but there wasn’t a moment here when she didn’t look to be having as much fun as an arena full of people who were enjoying themselves immensely.

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