BEIRUT: Living up to the weight of expectation put on Thursday’s Shakira concert was a tall order. The Colombian singer’s concert had been repeatedly touted by its organizers as the biggest to ever take place in Lebanon.
Tens of thousands of people stood by with baited breath as it began, waiting for the return of this prodigal daughter, whose dad is Lebanese.
But Shakira was obviously keen to try to meet the hype, and the crowd was willing her on. When she emerged and told them “Beirut, tonight I’m all yours,” there was an almost-perceptible sigh of relief at the fact that we all understood one another.
She dedicated the evening to her father and told us all how special this night was to her.
“I love you very, very much Lebanon,” she said before the event. “I am so happy to be here. My dad is very happy too. I brought my sister; the Moubarak family is really, really excited to be in Lebanon.”
After 28 years in show business, Shakira certainly knows how to work a crowd. She smiles beatifically as she contorts her body, demanding equal attention from the 5-year-olds who weren’t even alive when she broke into the English-speaking charts with her 2002 hit “Whenever, Wherever,” and their middle-aged parents, appealing to men and women, gay and straight.
Yet she never appeared fake, or unlikeable, being without the distant professionalism of modern stars such as Lady Gaga, despite the pink creation in which she first came on stage, which had hints of the younger star.
She shimmied through her hits, whipping out her trademark moves on “Loco,” (“Majnoon!” she cried out), “She Wolf,” and “Underneath Your Clothes.” The crowd had nothing but appreciation as she sang a Fairooz number, and performed some of the Arabic-inspired dance that helped raise her to fame.
The mood dipped a little during the slower numbers, although even for those who only know her hits, Shakira’s distinctive voice, once described by a childhood music teacher as sounding “like a goat,” was still enough reason to be here.
It was in the encore that she really shone. Here she brought out “Hips Don’t Lie,” one of the biggest-selling singles of the last decade, no doubt equally for its soul-shaking tunefulness as the hips in question.
She ended with the song it seemed most had come to see, if the chanting of “Waka, Waka” was anything to go by. The World Cup tune was certainly the best-received of the night and even had the few remaining skeptics at the back dancing along. And her decision prior to the event to dedicate this football anthem to the Lebanese crowd proved that Shakira really does know her audience.