Background: Music is an area of human endeavor that people acquire very specific tastes on in my experience, a lot of people seeming to want to hear very narrow types of music until someone takes the time to show them something special. Years ago, I found myself hawking the works of Selena before her untimely passing and I recall how some people would tell me that her music was only for "_____", based not on hearing it but her reputation. Cross over acts are more common these days thanks to music videos and cable though so it makes sense that I'd try my hand at suggesting another music act from South of the Border, yes, another cutie known for her physically appealing body as much as her sonic excellence, this time with lovely Shakira in the form of Shakira: Oral Fixation Tour (Blu-Ray), a recently released concert that provides another glimpse into the world music approach the lady uses in her concerts as well as some of her humanitarian efforts she has embraced in recent years.
Concert: Shakira: Oral Fixation Tour (Blu-Ray) was a tour that went through over 140 major cities between 2006 and 2007 with Shakira selling out within minutes at most of the locales but always playing to packed houses wherever she went. Her brand of music is eclectic at best, picking from a variety of influences that have changed over time but always keeping some unmistakably Latin beats to add in as her own. It might be most telling that mainstream sponsors love her appeal to all sorts of audiences, not limited like so many celebrities seem to be to one narrowly defined demographic as fans of hers can be found all over the world with all sorts of backgrounds. To say the siren is an ambassador of peace to many multicultural areas is not a stretch either given how she seems able to bring people together in a world that almost seems to do its best to keep us apart in our own narrowly drawn corners. Tens of millions of copies of her works have been sold (scores more bootlegged) and the current incarnation of this lady is the sexy Latina many radio stations play endlessly throughout the day; Shakira's appeal moving past her sexy looks to include her musical talents with instruments as well.
This particular concert appears to have been shot largely in Miami on December 9, 2006, with the extended seventeen song playlist punctuated by costume changes, extensive dance sequences, and even a few quest stars some of you might recognize. Concerts are notoriously difficult to capture on video but this one seemed to be handled with the utmost of care, focusing most of the attention squarely where it belonged (on Shakira herself) as she made the stage her own. The concert itself lasted just under 93 minutes and offered a more seductive (if that's actually possible) Shakira that wasn't immediately shown on stage, coaxing the fans a bit into a frenzy before the lightshow displayed the busty babe in all her glory. I prefer studio albums myself but have long found the experience offered by a well handled concert to be something special; from the intimate clubs of Boston where I used to spend some time to the arenas where the crowds droned out the mega-speakers that proved so deafening to my youthful ears once upon a time.
Here's the playlist for those of you interested:
02. Estoy Aqui
03. Te Dejo Madrid
04. Don't Bother
06. Hey You
08. Si Te Vas
09. La Tortura (joined by Alejandro Sanz)
11. Whenever, Wherever
12. La Pared
13. Underneath Your Clothes
14. Pies Descalzos
15. Ciega, Sordomuda
16. Ojos Asi
17. Hips Don't Lie (joined by Wyclef Jean)
The Shakira: Oral Fixation Tour (Blu-Ray) was one of those movies that you will either love or hate, depending largely on your tastes in music but unlike the heavily processed vocals of most modern pop music sirens, Shakira is the real deal, combing her abilities and looks to make a concert an experience more than just a way to listen to music. The full concert experience, sans difficulty parking, crowds pushing you around, and t-shirt vendors beating you up with outrageously overpriced souvenirs, and that alone made this Shakira fan appreciative that Sony has wisely ramped up their concert program to embrace such headliners as this gal; making it an easy title to rate as Highly Recommended.
Picture: Shakira: Oral Fixation Tour (Blu-Ray) was presented in the same 1.78:1 ratio widescreen color it was shot in by director Nick Wareham using the 1080p resolution fans are demanding and a AVC codec that varied substantially throughout the concert; at times going into the upper 20's to the mid teen Mbps bitrates with most of the show firmly in the 20's for those who care. The MPEG-4 treatment worked well here, the nuances of the concert captured nicely as the cameras panned the crowd to show the numerous light wands and arms stretched out as the lyrics poured over the people in attendance. The cameras spent most of their time on the singer herself, her bare midriff and wild mane of hair seen so sharply at times that I wondered exactly how close the camera was positioned to her to get that kind of detail. The use of lighting gels, special effects, and smoke did impact some moments of the show in a negative manner but this is part and parcel of the concert going experience too so it was more faithful to the subject matter than I might like but served as a time capsule for those in attendance like no crystal clear version would ever have provided. There was grain and some video noise during those parts but I can't imagine any major venue looking better than this one so fans will be doubly pleased at the visual appeal.
Sound: The audio was presented with the usual choices in either Spanish or English, the primary tracks being the 5.1 uncompressed lossless pulse code modulated 48 kHz offerings at an amazing 6.9 Mbps bitrate. The 2.0 PCM version (also 24 bit and at 48 kHz but sporting a 2.3 Mbps bitrate) and 5.1 Dolby Digital (48 kHz and 640 Kbps) were not bad but once you've heard the primary audio tracks; there is no going back if you have a system capable of handling it. The intensity of the music was such that it could become a wall of aural pleasure, the rear speakers pouring out the approval of the audience as if the listener was far too close to the stage though slightly off center and back a bit into the crowd. The music was always geared up to be the dominant sonic focus too, the roar of the crowd not allowed to oppress the voice or instruments of the band there to please all in attendance. The songs were not so clean as to sound like they were taken off a studio album but I definitely was left with the impression that some sonic cleansing was done in post production here to make it sound as good as it did in all the selections. The dynamic range was remarkably sweet too, with the headspace of the instruments easily placed in the appropriate locations as the rears continued to pour forth the audience (which was cut back a few notches all the same in a very wise decision by the production staff).
Extras: For me, the best extra was the included music CD with six tracks the liner notes led me to believe were exclusive to this set. They were presented in 2.0 format so don't listen to them right after the DVD or they will sound weaker by comparison, still offering the kind of added value fans like me expect from Sony and their affiliates. On the DVD itself, there was a documentary for the tour called Around the World in 397 Days lasting 11:26 minutes, showing some glimpses from other parts of the tour (such as in India, Spain, Egypt, and other places) with a lot of behind the scenes goofing off mixed in with the sight seeing Shakira and entourage did in between their work schedules. It was presented in SD but still added value for me leading nicely into the second documentary called Barefoot, a virtual infomercial for Shakira's charity for poor kids in Columbia. It lasted 21:21 minutes and was in high definition, focusing on the misery of growing up poor without hope (similar to Xuxa's charity IIRC). There was a lot of music and footage of Shakira trying to make the school happen, with voiceovers and clips from her travels. Next up was a music video for Las de la Intucion in standard definition with Shakira wearing anime hair but the sexy lingerie clearly showing her as a sexpot still growing into the role. There were then a couple of alternate versions of concert songs from other venues in standard definition (La pared and Obtener Un Si) where her complete ease with the role as entertainer were always in evidence. The last extra on the DVD was a series of photographs, far too few to appeal to me but something a few of you may appreciate all the same. The double sided DVD cover was nice and the liner notes were appreciated, even if they were written so small that I almost wondered if they were done by a friend of mine in contracts.
Final Thoughts: Shakira: Oral Fixation Tour (Blu-Ray) was one of the most recent examples of a format exclusive title I wholeheartedly endorse. I wish my friends embracing other formats exclusively would go dual format too as the sonic qualities of this title were enough on their own to give this one the nod. The technical matters and body of extras proved to be very appealing indeed to this reviewer and as any fan of Shakira's can tell you, her sex appeal is not limited to just her sultry voice so seeing her on the big screen was a delight to behold in what is now the premiere concert offering of my collection. Perhaps if Sony and it's affiliates continued to really press this angle on future concerts, they'd find a captive audience for the superior nature of the high definition content here, I just hope they push to release all the material on such releases in the very best format available (not dumb stuff down in SD). In short, you really can't go wrong with Shakira: Oral Fixation Tour (Blu-Ray), the audio qualities making it a must have for any of Shakira's fans nearly as much as her absorbing stage presence and sexy moves. Great job!