Shakira is a mother. She is a lover. She is a she wolf. And on Friday night at New York’s Madison Square Garden, she asserted her rank as an international pop goddess.
Over the course of nearly three decades, Colombia’s reigning Queen of Pop has evolved into the ultimate cross-cultural chameleon. She shredded through the Nineties as her country’s premier rock star; cracked the American market in 2001 with her globetrotting pop jaunt Laundry Service; became a household name with her hip-shaking Oral Fixation series; worked a stint as a coach on NBC’s The Voice, and even played herself as a singing gazelle in the 2016 animated film Zootopia. Her Grammy-winning album, 2017’s El Dorado, sees her flirting with more urban sounds, crafting Hot 100 earworms from reggaeton, bachata and Latin trap alongside the likes of Carlos Vives, Maluma, Nicky Jam and Prince Royce.
Yet after having suffered a vocal cord hemorrhage last November, Shakira had no choice but to postpone her El Dorado World Tour by several months. The diva emerged anew this summer, kicking off her 55-date run in Europe and the Middle East — with a pit stop in her hometown of Barranquilla, Colombia — before finally touching down in Chicago for her first United States tour in seven years. Fans of all ages and stripes turned out for her momentous New York appearance: some waving Colombian flags, others adorned in glitter and jangling belly chains, donning their own takes on Shakira’s most iconic looks. Here are some of the highlights from her Madison Square Garden show:
Shakira ‘Round the World
It may be hard to believe, but the singer has graced this earth for 41 years, and on this night, she had something to offer every corner of her global, intergenerational fandom. Opening with her breakout hit, 1995’s dance-pop “Estoy Aquí,” she eased into the 2009 disco cut, “She Wolf,” with the audience responding with howls of approval. She then set her course towards the East, flaunting her Lebanese heritage in full belly dance apparel for 2001’s “Whenever, Wherever” and bringing the audience to their feet for her 2010 FIFA World Cup anthem, “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa).” And the pop star also reminded the crowd that she serves as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, running clips from Pascal Plisson’s 2013 documentary On the Way to School mid-show to highlight the (literal) roadblocks rural children face in attaining an education.
Dancing on Her Own
No backup dancers? No problem! Shakira has enough hips to carry an entire dance troupe and then some. The show peaked when she surfaced in a hot-pink cheetah-print dress, undulating down the catwalk to “Hips Don’t Lie.” Who needs backup dancers when she can multiply herself by ten on the Jumbotron?
Shaki Bangs the Drums
Nineties kids look back fondly at the raven-haired Rocker Shaki: After an unsuccessful run as a teen pop princess, Shakira blossomed into a pop-rock prophet, first with 1995’s Pies Descalzos and again on 1998’s Dónde Están los Ladrones. Both records crowned her an anomaly during the male-heavy rock en español boom of the late Nineties — and even still, twenty years later. Shakira grabbed her electric guitar and threw her diehard fans a bone with an incendiary version of “Inevitable,” closing with a volcanic guitar-on-bass face-off with bandmate Joe Ayoub. She later dialed it down with her newer acoustic ballad, “Amarillo”; but just when the crowd eased up, Shaki ditched the ragga chill of her Rihanna collab, “Can’t Remember to Forget You,” charging towards the drums to bang out a high-octane solo.
“Quick — hold my accordion”
Filling in on vocals for Alejandro Sanz, keyboardist Albert Menendez joined Shakira on the runway for “La Tortura”, following her hips with fluttery trills from his accordion — which he passed off to a crew member, in exchange for a cajón, a bare-bones, Caribbean box-like percussion. She beckoned the rest of her bandmates to join her at the end of the runway, where they huddled together for a down-home, campfire-style rendition of “Lo Que Es Amar.” While Shakira traipsed backstage for a costume change, violinist Caitlin Evanson regaled the crowd with beautiful string interludes and supermodel charisma. Wearing a gold gown, Shakira bypassed her catwalk entirely and waded through the sea of fans, a true pop star of the people.
In all seriousness, one has not truly lived until they’ve seen La Shaki gyrating to “Perro Fiel” among an arsenal of pyrotechnic flames. Long live La Shaki.