The concert I almost didn’t go to

I don’t love rap, I’m not sure if I even really like it. I know they say real rap or real hip-hop only existed in the 90s but I’m not too familiar with the old stuff and quite frankly I’m not sure I really care to investigate (#sorrynotsorry).

With that said, my number one favorite artist of all time will always be J. Cole. He has been my go-to feel-good artist since my senior year of high school when I first heard his “Lights Please” record. I credit his lyrics and his beats for getting me out of the rut I was stuck in for about 80 percent of that year.

I cried when I first saw him live. The date was January 28, 2014 — his 29th birthday and I remember it like it was yesterday. 

In my close circle of friends, I was — and still am, the only die-hard J. Cole fan, so convincing someone who only sorta-kinda occasionally liked him to travel on a cold winter night and not to mention spend the money on concert tickets was a bit of a challenge. 

Luckily, I found a friend who was willing to go with me in exchange for me joining her when Shakira (who is her J. Cole) went on tour. 

So, we shook on it and four years later I made good on my promise when Shakira announced her “El Dorado World Tour” for 2018.

I’ve always liked Shakira; I like her free-spirited style, her unconventional lyrics that you sometimes can’t make sense out of but find yourself singing along ecstatically anyways. As a child, my aunt affectionately nicknamed me after her because of our similar out-of-control curly locks; yet if it wasn’t because of the deal I made with my friend in late 2013, I probably would’ve skipped out on her tour entirely.

I’m so glad I didn’t.

On a sticky summer Friday night, in a sold-out Madison Square Garden Arena, I turned to my right and I saw women around my age, of all skin tones, but to my left there was a group of guy best friends singing and dancing with the same excitement and joy that I was. 

In front of me, an LGBTQ couple Snapchatted and took pictures. 

Up and down the bathroom line stood girls who couldn’t have been any older than 10 or 11, with their grandmothers. 

There was a distinct feeling of true human connection in the air that night. 

I’ve been to countless of live performances over the past eight years, and as a loyal Aquarius men aficionado, I always make sure to check-out The Weeknd and J. Cole every time they are in town. But I’ve never seen them attract such a diverse crowd the way Shakira did that night. 

Watching Shakira live may not have brought me to tears like J. Cole did, I may not have a signed album of hers like I do of The Weeknd (yes I brought this up just to brag) but I walked away from her concert with a great reminder that you don’t have to be loud, flamboyant or 6 feet tall to create an impact on people. You can be kind, low-key and still win. 

She is powerful in her own subtle way, but everyone still sees her – every piece of the human spectrum did that night.