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Shakira: Oral Fixation Tour Blu-ray Disc Review

Most Americans know Shakira as the hip-swinging Colombian artist who tore up both Latin and American charts this past year with Hips Don’t Lie, featuring Fugees guest artist Wyclef Jean. Beyond that hit, and maybe Whenever, Wherever, Shakira’s music has been aimed squarely at the South American audiences she hails from. This hasn’t stopped her unique style of primarily Spanish-sung music from stretching out to fans across the globe.

The same assertion can be made of her 140-city Oral Fixation Tour, captured in Miami during a three-night set in 2006 by Sony BMG and now available on Blu-ray Disc roughly a month after release on standard DVD. The suspect recent mainstream songs are included, but the majority of material is sung in Spanish, thus alienating non-Spanish speaking audiences — myself included — from understanding the lyrics thanks to the exclusion of subtitles. Where Shakira succeeds when other artists might fail is in her ability to reach beyond the language barrier and engage the audience; not only with her mesmerizing dance moves, but with her smile, demeanor while addressing her fans, and costumes ranging from casual to exotic.

In addition to Wyclef Jean bringing the house down in the Hips Don’t Lie finale, Latin artist Alejandro Sanz performs a rocking duet with Shakira, La Tortura. Although sung in Spanish, I’ve heard this song before and just can’t place it. It’s a fantastic catchy tune and her rhythmic interaction around Sanz creates one of the more electrifying performances in the entire set. The most electric goes to Whenever, Wherever, which begins with a sensual Shakira dance with a rope, then explodes into a cranked up extended version of the popular song.

Sony BMG has thoroughly impressed me thus far with their treatment of concerts on Blu-ray Disc, and Oral Fixation Tour is no exception. The 1080p AVC MPEG-4 encode of always tricky wide and close-up shots in a dimly lit arena peaks above 30 mbps and dances in the mid-20s on average. Noise and a small hit to detail levels become apparent in select wide camera angles and lighting situations. Nitpickers might even pick up on some slight atypical jumps in background gradients where intense lighting and haze intersect. If someone’s paying that much attention to the background instead of Shakira, they deserve a smack upside the head.

These infrequent inconsistencies are offset by stunning detail and colors in any of the close-up shots. The finale, in particular, sees confetti dropped down on the rabid audiences as Hips Don’t Lie plays out on stage. The confetti depth and clarity is lifelike far beyond what standard DVD could offer. Given the tricky circumstances of filming a concert with an array of cameras, constantly changing lighting, haze, and a massive audience, this transfer is another musical masterpiece by Sony BMG.

No concert high definition presentation is complete without a rousing audio counterpart, an area Sony BMG has yet to drop the ball in. Aside from the lack of Spanish subtitles, there’s absolutely nothing to complain about in this uncompressed PCM 5.1 48 kHz/24-bit soundtrack. A common surround sound mistake of overpowering the performance with audience noise has been successfully avoided without compromising the audience’s impact. They are as boisterous as ever through the rear surrounds, yet Shakira and her band are never drowned out. Hats off to Sony BMG for producing a pounding, and equally well balanced, concert mix.

All that’s left for Sony BMG to improve the presentation are subtitles on any disc where the artist performs in a non-English language. Even though Shakira “makes a man want to speak Spanish,” we all don’t have the time or ambition to pick up a new language from scratch just to understand her music.

The viewer-controlled BD-J features on Sony BMG’s AC/DC release didn’t make it to Oral Fixation Tour. The only Blu-ray exclusive special feature is a silent 1080p Photo Gallery of stills snapped from the show. The remaining standard DVD-ported special features are fairly skimpy and passable for non-hardcore Shakira fans.

Around the World in 397 Days Documentary (11:26, Full-Screen) — This brief montage offers up a behind-the-scenes look at several countries the Oral Fixation Tour visited: India, Cairo Egypt, and Miami. It ultimately needs more Shakira and fewer establishing shots.

Barefoot Documentary (21:21) — An inside look at Shakira’s benefit concert in Columbia to fund a school in an impoverished area.

Bonus Live Performances — Roughly three-minute performances of La Pared and Obtener un Si, in Spanish.

Music Video — Las De La Intuicion, in Spanish.

Also included in the package is a second disc (CD) of audio tracks featured in the Oral Fixation Tour: Intro, Estoy Aqui, Don’t Bother, Inevitable, La Pared, and Hips Don’t Lie.

I’m running out of adjectives to describe Sony BMG’s near-perfect treatment of their beloved concerts on Blu-ray Disc. When the material is as captivating as Shakira, the performance presented as best as it possibly can results in a win-win situation on all fronts. The true Shakira fans who jumped on the standard DVD a month ago might want to seriously consider an upgrade.
Click here to check prices on Shakira: Oral Fixation Tour.

Score: 8.7

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