Film Review: ‘Shakira In Concert: El Dorado World Tour’
Shakira In Concert: El Dorado World Tour ticks all the boxes. In that it works as both a straightforward concert film, capturing the superstar’s electric stage presence, and as a documentary about the creative process. We’re treated to rehearsal footage, studio sessions and intimate backstage moments. Due to time constraints, those components don’t always flow as seamlessly as they might, but the pop icon would need a 12-part Netflix series to adequately convey the staggering amount of work that went into El Dorado World Tour, and the various hurdles she had to overcome along the way.
The film, which Shakira co-directed with James B. Merryman, begins with a triumphant performance of “Estoy Aquí,” before segueing into the still-genius “She Wolf.” The 42-year-old prowls across the stage like a lone panther, shaking her famously honest hips and striking exaggerated poses. Instead of being hemmed in by dancers and choreography, she wanted the freedom to improvise and move around the stage as the music commands. As a result, there’s a wildness to the show that is incredibly rare at the pinnacle of pop music. The enduring hitmaker is literally marching to the beat of her own drum, accompanied by only her five-piece band and a dizzying light show.
In the first behind-the-scenes clip, we’re able to witness the rehearsal process. It turns out, that Shakira has orchestrated everything from the placement of cameras (at one point she amusingly nixes an angle because it makes her look like “an oompa loompa”) and the frequency and duration of every flash of light. And it’s not just the stage production. As we learn, she is across every facet of the show from the sound mix to the costumes. The level of detail is staggering. In an interview that plays after the film, Shakira laughs about going through 17 different leave patterns for a single projection. (One was rejected for being “too green”).
Unfortunately, just as the El Dorado World Tour launches, tragedy strikes when our heroine suffers a potentially career-ending injury to her vocal cords. This is where the documentary really lifts the veil on one of music’s most private stars. Shakira reveals that she saw five doctors in three days, four of which decreed that surgery was the only option. However, that came with its own risks. Including losing her voice forever. Instead, the Queen of Latin Pop opted for months of complete vocal rest. At one point, she bursts into tears at the memory of communicating with her children via handwritten signs.
Interestingly, Shakira also admits to trying everything from holy water from Lourdes to meditation to assist her recovery along. Given the film’s already lengthy running time, there probably wasn’t a lot of room to delve deeper into her illness and miraculous recovery. However, you get the feeling that it was a life-changing event for her. Colombia’s greatest export still thanks God during each show for returning her most treasured gift and she expresses gratitude for each note that comes out of her mouth. It would have been fascinating to see more of this journey.
Hits like “Si Te Vas,” “Nada” and “Underneath Your Clothes” show exactly what a powerful instrument Shakira’s voice is, and the cameras expertly capture how she swerves from bangers to ballads without losing the audience for a single second. After another musical interlude, we’re treated to a studio session with longtime collaborator Luis Ochoa, where we see the way Shakira composes a song. It’s almost as if different instruments speak to her as she instructs the producer on both the mix and arrangement without ever losing a smile.
One of the film’s funniest moments comes when Shakira hits the studio Nicky Jam. He’s so taken by the way she plucks lyrics from the ether that he offers to clean her car as a thank you. The reggaeton heavyweight even falls to the floor to clean her shoes. The fruits of their labour (“Perro Fiel” and “El Perdon”) deliver a concert highlight, while “Me Enamoré” and “Chantaje” give the performer another opportunity to showcase her stagecraft. Other concert highlights are “Amarillo,” “Loca/Rabiosa” and the exquisite “Toneladas.” Which takes us to the encore.
Shakira finishes the show with “Hips Don’t Lie,” which she performs while walking through the audience. The Latin legend beams as fans kiss her, ask for hugs and take selfies. While most artists of her caliber would insist on security guards keeping spectators at bay, she specifically thanks them for letting fans get closer. The relationship Shakira has with fans feels truly organic. At one point, she describes it as “a metaphysical connection,” and you can see exactly what she means by the joy that flashes across her face when confronted by screaming, hysterical fans.
After the concert winds up with “La Bicicleta,” Shakira literally dances from the stage, and she keeps dancing on the tour bus and private jet. While much of the film was filmed at the Forum in Los Angeles, there is additional footage from the final show on the tour in Bogotá, Colombia. The end of the El Dorado World Tour is juxtaposed with footage from the end of her Pies Descalzos tour, 20 years ago. That was when the superstar decided to give something back to her homeland and set up the Bare Foot foundation, which helps disadvantaged children.
It’s fascinating to hear Shakira’s views on social injustice and the seriousness with which she fights it. Again, this is a facet of the hitmaker’s life that could have been elaborated on. But perhaps that’s a separate documentary. Shakira In Concert: El Dorado World Tour is essential viewing for any fan. It’s also a thoroughly entertaining watch for anyone interested in art and creativity in general. The film is showing in select theaters now. The accompanying live album is available to download here. Don’t miss the opportunity of seeing this on the big screen.