It may have been a cool evening in Montreal, but it was hot inside the Bell Centre last night, as Shakira gave fans a sneak preview of her Sun Comes Out World Tour.
The Colombian pop star and her band have been rehearsing at the venue since the weekend, with yesterday's show billed as a final rehearsal. The tour officially begins tomorrow in Uncasville, Conn.
Shakira was taking no chances. Like Lady Gaga, who kicked off her Monster Ball tour in Montreal last November, the singer barred photographers from the concert. Her people also didn't provide tickets for the press -a futile attempt at keeping this first night under wraps.
They needn't have worried. Shakira gave her audience a full-on, flawless show. From start to finish, the 33-year-old singer demonstrated the confidence, charisma and natural showmanship that have made her a world-class performer over the last 15 years.
Backed by an eight-piece band, she played songs from every era of her career -from opener Pienso En Ti, which dates back to 1995, to several off her new album Sale El Sol, due for release on Oct. 19.
Appearing in the middle of the crowd, she began the first number a cappella; light synths and guitars joined in as she wandered through the audience dressed in a pink dress and head scarf, smiling and touching hands as she went.
It wasn't long before she changed into a shimmering, sleeveless gold top and skintight pants, rocking out to Why Wait -dropping to her knees and writhing on the floor, then hopping back up and dancing up a storm.
Shakira is refreshingly unselfconscious on stage. Yes, she makes all the right moves, but she also has fun, and her energy is infectious.
"Come esta mi gente?" she asked, to a roar of cheers. "I am so thrilled to be here. As you know, this is the rehearsal for our tour. You guys are great. You're loud! I like that."
She struck poses and gyrated against her microphone stand for the boppy Si Te Vas, then invited four female fans up for a free dance lesson during Whenever, Wherever. (Hint: It's all in the hips - more on that in a bit.)
Her old Spanish ballad Inevitable was written on a beach, she explained, before launching into a passionate rendition of the song. Gypsy, delivered from the end of the catwalk, had a folk lilt; while Ciega Sordomuda found her running about the stage barefoot, twirling as she went, and leading the audience in handclaps.
The reggaeton of Gordita and carnival thump of Loca (one of the few numbers for which she was accompanied by backup dancers), proved that the new songs packed punch.
She brought the belly dancing for the Middle Easterninfluenced Ojos Asi, her impossibly sculpted abs swivelling in tandem with her shimmying posterior, prompting the crowd to erupt in cheers.
As the song -which came in the encore -says, the Hips Don't Lie.
She closed with a rousing rendition of her 2010 World Cup anthem Waka Waka (This Time for Africa), putting the cap on a sizzling show.
If this was the rehearsal, we can only imagine the real deal.