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At Madison Square Garden, a Barefoot Shakira Signals a Return to Her Roots

"This next song is probably one of my favorite songs from my repertoire," Shakira said, as she introduced "Inevitable," a well-known standard from her second studio album, the entirely Spanish-language collection Donde Estan Los Ladrones? (Where Are The Thieves?) Over the course of the evening, Shakira tipped the scales in favor of songs in her native tongue and offered up only three from her most recent album, She Wolf, which, while critically acclaimed, has been met with less commercial success than her previous five.

Her roots also took hold in some of the material that she shared from her forthcoming album Sale el Sol(The Sun Comes Out), which is due October 19th. Shakira offered up five songs expected to be a part of that seventh studio effort and they marked some of the more exciting moments of the concert. Two songs in particular demonstrated a noticeable (and welcome) return to her Rock and Latin roots -- showcasing a quintessential Shakira timbre. Those songs were "Antes de las Seis" ("Before Six O'Clock") and the title track "Sale el Sol," which Shakira said was a way of expressing her feeling that "the sun is starting to shine for me again," and that, "inside all of us there is a sun that will not extinguish -- no matter what."

But a re-investigation of her rock roots is not to say -- by any stretch -- that Shakira is shying away from experimentation. The hot lead single "Loca" is a sultry and sexy up-tempo merengue concoction featuring Dominican rapper El Cata, who created the song "Loca con su Tiguere," from which "Loca" was adapted. And "Gordita," a collaboration with the Grammy Award-winning Puerto Rican reggaeton group Calle 13, feels like it could chart new territory for Shakira; it received a warm, though noticeably muted, reception at The Garden. (Head here to check out a live performance that the duo delivered in Spain earlier this year.) Since Calle 13 wasn't on-hand in New York last night, the face of lead singer Rene Perez Joglar was digitally projected onto a monstrous (and ominous) three-dimensional white mask suspended over the stage.

That lone standout visual, however, was by far the biggest stunt of the show, which points to an important quality that Shakira embodies: A sincere lack of overtly ostentatious showiness. There were few costume changes--she performed in black leggings and a couple of glittery sequined tops for the majority of the show or donned some belly-dancing attire from time to time. That's not to say, though, that she doesn't put on an amazing show, she just manages to do so with an air of authenticity that is talent-based, not reliant on bells and whistles. She's confident enough to forgo gimmicks and histrionics so that attention falls exactly where it belongs: On her voice--well that and, of course, her hips.

Shakira's new tour continues Saturday, September 25 in Fort Lauderdale and travels the United States through October, at which point she heads to Europe. "Loca," the first single from Sale el Sol, is currently available on iTunes, where the full album will be available on October 19. Head to Shakira's website for tour dates.


Previously > First Listen: Sylvia Tosun's "Above All"

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Max Berlinger