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Shakira: Those hips still tell the best story


The great story about Latino superstar Shakira is, of course, the one where she was refused entry into her school choir as a 10-year-old because either (depending on where you read it) her voice was "too strong," or "she sounded like a goat."

Judging by her nearly sold-out performance at the Air Canada Centre in

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Toronto on Sunday (the latest stop on her world-hopping and amazingly successful Oral Fixation Tour), both of those criticisms still hold a soupçon of truth. Yes, she has a very powerful voice, as evidenced from the very first strains of the Spanish-language opener Estoy Aqui. It translates to "I'm here," a rather unnecessary boast, given that Tommy, The Who's deaf, dumb and blind boy, could have figured that out just from the massive vibes in the room.

And yes, there still is the touch of the bleating goat in Shakira's vocal stylings. Despite having sold millions and millions of discs worldwide, it is a somewhat odd vocal instrument, one that falls somewhere between the pop sheen of Madonna and the stridency of Avril Lavigne.

But with so much else going for her (looks, athleticism, charisma, stage presence and a wealth of great pop songs), the voice is good enough. Whether trading in hit ballads such as Underneath Your Clothes or pop fluff such as Don't Bother and Whenever, Wherever, Shakira showed enough vocal chops to at least make the finals of Colombian Idol. It was really all she would need.


Because with Shakira, the song is only half the act. The rest focuses on her amazing dancing ability. Part-Lebanese, Shakira learned belly dancing as a child, largely to overcome her shyness. Apparently, it worked, as now her performances revolve around her hip-shaking abilities. She showed herself as harem-ready on more than one occasion Sunday (most notably on La Tortura), but there was more. Besides the belly dancing, Shakira also threw in elements of modern dance, stripper-pole gymnastics and weird little Devo-styled robot dancing. All told, the show was as much about the visual as it was the sonic.


Ex-Fugee Wyclef Jean (on the bill primarily because he shares vocals on the monster Shakira summer hit Hips Don't Lie, for which he joined her for the encore) spent about half of his opening set just kind of screaming into the microphone, before returning to cheerleader mode with repeated chants of "Are you ready for Shakira?" Humbling, no doubt, and all rather pointless.

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