Shakira - The Barefoot Singer

Went to see the Shakira concert in Berlin last night. Luckily, a friend was able to organize tickets (on account of being her cousin) which I picked up at a hotel on Potsdamer Platz on the way to the Max-Schmeling-Hall. A car company, SEAT, is sponsoring the tour, apparently they had tons of tickets they gave to deserving car dealers in the area. Lots of advertising at the hotel and outside of the concert hall.

We got to the concert an hour before start - and spent 25 minutes out in the snow, waiting to get frisked. Since this was the same place the handball World Cup started last week, I knew the routine: leave your knife at home. I also guessed that they would be really looking for cameras, so I left that, too.

They didn't have enough women for doing the pat-downs, so loooooong lines ensued. You had to stand out in the driving snow, open your backpack, open your coat, get patted down and stuff confiscated, and then you were allowed in. It was free choice of seat, meaning one needed to get the seats soon. No, I'm too old to be down on the floor in front of the stage, I need a seat. The good seats were reserved for the car company people.

I tried to contact the friend's wife, but I had mistakenly written down the wrong mobile phone number. I got her son, but he was in the backstage area without her. Isn't that a teenage boy's dream, being able to be backstage with Shakira and have her speak with you? He took a friend along to prove that it was true.

We snagged some seats near the ones we had for the handball game (the comforts of repeating actions and familiar places!), I organized some drink and nachos, and we waited. The car company ran some ads with Shakira on the video screens. Okay, they were amusing, the first time.

Five after eight two guys came on stage and said that they were DJ Cut and that they were going to be the opening act and would "entertain" us for half an hour. They had videos that were badly taken and strangely cut, and appeared to have been shot for 16:9 and were now being shown in 4:3. Who knows if this was on purpose or not?

They had a bass beat and some other noise coming from a computer, and then they made a big show out of selecting records to scratch more or less in time to the beat. Why one needs different records to produce this noise is beyond me. It was just horrible noise, and the promised full 30 minutes. The crowd on the floor war not amused - apparently the Latina pop & rock crowd doesn't like this kind of noise, what a surprise. No one got excited, and there was just a smatter of clapping when they finally pulled the plug.

Okay, here we go, we thought. The ads came back up. The second time was boring. The third and fourth times were just irritating, and the crowd started to whistle. That is German for booing, but of course, in the States (where Shakira now lives) this is not known, no idea how Columbians react to whistling. People started remembering the name of the car company as being something very irritating, I wonder if that was marketing's intent?

Anyway, nothing happened until another 45 minutes had passed. I played backgammon on my PDA in the meantime. At least it glowed in the dim lights. And then, finally, with some silly brimborium, she came out on the stage.

She was barefoot and just barely clothed, has a long mane of hair, and this wonderful voice that has started to pick up some bits of Björk - I like this! She sang mostly in Spanish, many of the songs were known from the radio, many people joined in singing.

Shakira bounced around the stage, even coming down into the crowd (along a well-blocked-off piece of floor) with two bodyguards close on her heels. There were some interesting bits of folklore music from Columbia and lots of belly dancing and oriental music - she is of Libanese descent and apparently learned to belly dance as a kid. With all that boob and hip shaking, the men near the stage must have been estatic - up in our seats there was not much to see but the video, which only showed parts of her (Pop quiz: the camera was held by a man, which part of her body got the most closeups? Right.)

Just a bit over an hour, and the show was "over" - was she trying to pull a Rolling Stones stunt? They played for 45 minutes only in the Ostseehalle in Kiel in the 70s (so I am told), sparking aggresive protests. No, she "let" herself be coaxed back to do one more song and then a really great show with 6 additional belly dancers in orange while she sang and danced this duet that is always on the radio but which I am not sure what it is called. Anyway, this was nice, but then it was over, lights on, time to go home.

Okay, let's go. Except there is no going. It seems the hall has too many people in it - we get down to the ground floor, then there is no progress made. After a while I make it to the drinks place - have to get my deposits back. They are busy serving beer and cokes and don't really want to give us our deposits back, so they delay. It takes a lot of elbow grease to get rid of the cups.

We inch our way to the coats, hoping that no panic will break out. The line moves - if at all - very slowly. Even getting our coats we can't leave the building because of the crowd of people waiting to get their confiscated gear back. We need a full 45 minutes to get out of the place! We wanted to go have a beer afterwards, but now we are just disgusted and take the train home.

Looking back, we spent 6 hours of time waiting for 90 minutes of show and enduring 30 minutes of horrible noise. If we would have bought the tickets at 66 Euros a piece, that would have been a pretty penny. For that money, I can get a couple of CDs and visit some handball games and still have money left over for a beer. And even though there were some high points, the concert itself was not that exciting. And the ads really got on my nerves.

I think that was the last live concert of the barefoot singer that I will attend. I'll wait for the DVDs to come out in the future.

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