Friday, November 19, 2010

Shakira at Lyon

Concert review

Shakira at Lyon Halle Tony Garnier 17.11.2010


After two months of touring the US, Shakira’s third global tour hit European soil at Lyon. Having spent the night before the concert in Lyon already, I arrived at the Halle Tony Garnier at 4pm and was shocked to find there were more than 500 people queuing already. I haven’t seen such fierce competition for the front row places before, and have in fact on some occasions arrived much later and still secured a better place than this time.

But anyhow, we all got in eventually and had ample time to admire the venue. As someone told me over breakfast at the Youth Hostel the next morning (all hotels being fully booked because of some aquarium trade fair or something similarly important), the place is a former exhibition hall built in 1914 using metal scaffolding in the style pioneered by Gustave Eiffel. The width is comparable to other arenas (like Wembley Arena) but the length of the thing is a staggering 210 metres, so I hope the people in the tiered seating at the back brought their telescopes along.

Like on some of the last European gigs I saw, the “special guest” was a DJ with the only and acknowledged ambition to work up the crowd, which I feel is cheating in a way, if you compare it to the traditional approach of giving a less known band or act the chance to promote their work to a wider audience. The advantage of the DJ approach, of course, is that they only need minimal equipment, such that 15 minutes after the DJ finished, the stage was ready for the main act, and Shakira actually appeared before the announced time (that must be a first, not just for her but for any woman of her nationality).

When the lights went down and everybody strained their eyes to work out where in the darkness she might materialise (no curtain and no giant cobra in sight this time), she worked her way through the crowd from the back of the audience to the “pier” running half way along the middle of the venue to the stage. Once it was clear from the video projection that she was in the crowd, it was in fact easy to locate her from the halo of excitedly glowing smartphones and cameras surrounding her.

While walking towards the stage she sang “Pienso en ti” an ancient piece from her breakthrough album Pies Descalzos, which she recently re-recorded for the soundtrack of the movie Love in the Times of Cholera. On reaching the stage she switched to the dancey Why wait from the SheWolf album.

The setlist was something like this (no guarantees for the order of pieces especially around the middle, pretty sure about the front and tail ends of the show):

Pienso en ti
Why wait
Te dejo Madrid
Si te vas
Underneath your clothes
Ciega sordomuda
Whenever wherever
Inevitable
A'tini al-Nay (sample from an Arabic song by Fairuz)
Nothing else matters (Metallica cover)
Despedida
Gordita
Loca
Shewolf
Gipsy
Las de la intuición
Sale el sol
Ojos así
-----------
Antes de las seis
Hips don’t lie
Waka waka


Notable absentees were Estoy aquí which was kind of her signature tune before the crossover and which opened the programme of the last tour, and No. Overall, I counted 11 Spanish pieces out of 20, which looks about the right mix to me. I was chuffed to have Antes de las seis included, one of my favourite ballads from the last few years, along with the old favourites like Ojos asi and Te dejo Madrid.

Similarly, the current tour band is an inspired mixture of the old and the new. Tim Mitchell, Albert Menendez, and Brendan Buckley have been on board since the MTV unplugged concert or longer, so they probably communicate with Shakira by musical telepathy by now. Glad to see that someone “from the UK” has joined Olgui as a second female musician in the tour band, and plays interesting instruments including a violin amplified by a brass horn. There were also a couple of new boys with interesting hair styles on guitar and bass, and a new percussionist. Oh and two very attractive dancers. This woman does know how to please the male minority in her audience.

Overall, the impression was that of a more normal, relaxed, let’s have fun together style of show compared with the mongoose tour. I probably said the same about the Oral fixation tour, but this time she went even further in this direction. There were still surprises and interesting new takes on well-known pieces though.

Hint for future concert goers: the places around the end of the pier are good ones, as much of the show happens there, actually, including an acoustic session and some interesting dancing, along with the belly-dance lesson for three girls picked from the audience.

I was slightly disappointed to hear that Shakira’s use of French remained limited to “Bonsoir a tout le monde” and “Merci beaucoup.” I don’t think there is a place in the world where addressing the natives in English feels as wrong to me as it does in France.

I’m also missing the open air concert in Las Ventas (Madrid) like mad. Obviously, it didn’t fit the tour calendar this time, but to me Las Ventas was just the perfect venue on the previous two tours.

But hey, I’m not complaining. Lyon was brilliant, and I have two more gigs to go to …



Previous Shakira concerts I attended:

London (16.12.2002)
Madrid (25.04.2003)
Madrid (22.06.2006)
Antwerpen (31.01.2007)
London (18.03.2007)
Köln (08.04.2007)

PS (Dec. 2011): I'm very pleased to report that my criticism re. not speaking French to the audience has been addressed somewhat in the Dec. 2010 concert at Paris, and then very impressively in the June 2011 concerts that were recorded for the Live from Paris DVD.

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