Nelly Furtado was positioned as the pop star with a little earthiness to her; remember her first album cover, lying down in the grass with that green sweater on, underneath the 60's throwback font, looking out at us wistfully? Her Latin-ness (she's Portuguese-Canadian) and rags-to-riches bio signified realness and accessibility; she could be an around-the-way girl, whether you're from Sao Paulo or St. Louis Park.
But now, like everyone else, she's glammed it up. Loose, her latest album, saw her working closely with Timbaland (there really is no escape, sorry) and tilting the balance of her sound further toward electronic pop and R&B. Luckily for the world, the collaboration didn't come off as grasping or cheap: Loose is straightup great, and the two Tim singles, "Maneater" and "Promiscuous Girl," are a one-two punch for the ages.
It's a little unfair to Furtado to see her show a week after Gwen Stefani's, in the same venue. Stefani's show has quite a bit more capital behind it, and her music, pitched to a slightly younger demographic, inspires a lot more ardor—and more getting down in the aisles.
Furtado and her band tried to turn the Xcel Center into a Miami supper club as often as a globalized superclub. Her stage was plain white blocks painted with palm tree silhouettes; the production style recalled an idealized memory of a Gloria Estefan video.
Furtado herself looked great, at once tomboyish, glamorous, and futurist. My god, pop stars are kept in fighting trim these days.
The show essentially had two acts: the slow first half and the uptempo second. I'm on record as loving the slow songs, but too many in a row and a crowd's ADD kicks in. The affecting live version of "Showtime" (be still my sentimental heart!) switched 80s radio pop for languid piano jazz. But by then even the girl who sat a few rows in front of me and sang every single word looked a little impatient (to say nothing of all the dutiful boyfriends.)
The second half—here come the hits!—barrelled along at a professional clip. There were a few real surprises: dropping a revved up cover of "Heart of Glass" into the middle of "Glow" was a nice touch. No matter how frankly manipulative the calls for St. Paul to make some nooooise got, I fell in love with Furtado's relentless showbiz will to give an arena full of people something to remember. The girl put on a Wild jersey, fuxake.