Greensboro Coliseum-Greensboro, NC
Whether you’re sitting up close or in the nose bleed seats, seeing Beyonce` live onstage is an amazing, unforgettable, breathtaking, euphoric auditory and visual experience that will leave you in awe and wanting more. As one concert-goer said after the show, “It was like a religious experience. That woman can perform. She really puts on a great show.” This is the 4th Beyonce` tour I’ve attended, and each time is just like the first. Beyonce` proves that she is a consummate performer focused on being a master of her trade, as she performs with an unwavering passion and energy that cannot be properly captured in a television performance.
The diva arrived from a behind a black curtain, walking through a thick cloud of smoke under a small spotlight. The crowd roared at the site of her silhouette. She then strikingly bulldozed through “Crazy in Love”, “Freakum Dress” (which her guitarists rocked hard as heck on), “Naughty Girl”, and “Get Me Bodied”, full on dancing and singing without ever losing a breath or sounding winded. After revving up the crowd, she effortlessly changed speed and slowed it down with “Me, Myself and I” and gave a wonderful mini-sermon about feminism and sisterhood (I love it when she does that). She then entered into her material from the 1st disc of her latest album, “I AM…Sasha Fierce”. The album’s concept is centered on revealing her more vulnerable and intimate side (Disc 1) and her introducing us musically to her alter-ego stage persona “Sasha Fierce” (disc 2). This concept was better illustrated on tour than it was on the album (see 11-18-08 album review).
For the disc 1 material, she re-appeared on stage singing “Smash Into U”, wearing an angelic-looking white bodice and hooded cape. Behind her was a video of a serene ocean whirlpool; the 1st of many effective visuals. Following “Smash” was “Ave Maria”, “Broken-Hearted Girl”, and “If I Were a Boy.” Her rendition of “Maria” was deeply moving and spectacular, as she displayed her vocal versatility and range with seamless tone-modulation and opera-like vocal styling. This performance negated any doubts about the beauty and strength of her voice. As mentioned earlier, the albums’ concept was illustrated well during the concert. Beyonce` performed the disc 1 songs with a raw, naked, openness that could have brought you to tears. All of the sudden you felt so close to her. You could tell that the audience felt very connected to her as they sung “Broken” and “Boy” with the same passion as she did. During “Boy”, Beyonce` gave us an appetizer of what was to come (i.e. Sasha) as she broke into Alanis Morisette’s edgy “U Oughta Know” with intense angst and bitterness, wearing a warrior-esque leather costume and pompously grabbing her crotch (yes, that actually happened). With such behavior uncharacteristic of her, you knew Sasha was coming.
Beyonce` left the stage, and a video began playing of a female robot walking through a blizzard to “Sweet Dreams.” The robot turned into a cheetah; then into Beyonce`. Or should I say Sasha Fierce? After a grandiose introduction by the band, Sasha went into the bouncy “Diva”, followed by “Ego” and “Hello”, wearing a costume with metal pieces. All of the Thierry Mugler-designed costumes were eye-catching. Her backup dancers were dressed as gold robots and moved in such a believable way, you had to look twice to make sure they were actually human. During this set, Beyonce` made a clear distinction between herself and her alter-ego. She was aggressive, sassy and arrogant, but it wasn’t a turn off, as the set was infused with feminism and power. Unlike on the album, Sasha was what she was supposed to be (again, see the 11-18-08 album review). Invincible and confident, she was a woman you could admire. After “Hello”, it was time for the band and background singers to do their thing. As if, Beyonce` hadn’t done enough to emphasize feminism, she commissioned an all female band. On their second tour with Bee, these musicians are immensely talented, impressive and fun. Each musician had their own amazing solo; a few doing some fun tricks. During the break, they played an eclectic set of songs; everything from Michael Jackson to Jimi Hendrix. The arrangements for Beyonce’s songs were unique and memorable (as they often are). The three glamorous, full-figured background singers (cutely called “The Mamas”) all had amazing voices and harmonized well together.
Once the band break was finished, the lights went down, jungle music played, and a gong was pushed out onto the stage. Another video started to play; Beyonce` was dressed as roman goddess, flipping a gold coin with her face on one side, Sasha’s on the other. Sasha shows up and catches the coin. As the coin lands on Sasha’s face, Sasha laughs and walks away. The gong is hit, and Beyonce’ gradually rises out of the stage floor, appearing as if she is on chair. The gold blanket around her drops; she is not on a chair after all. She’s flying. Over the audience, Beyonce` floated in a holster across to a mini-stage in the middle of the arena. She twirled in circles three times before landing. Once on the stage, she performed several songs, including “Irreplaceable”, which she allowed the audience to sing to her half way through. It must be awesome as a songwriter to hear thousands of fans singing a song you labored over, to point where you don’t have to. Beyonce` also performed a Destiny’s Child medley that the crowd seemed to really enjoy. After the medley, she returned to the main stage and had another costume change. A video documenting the civil rights movement played, and it ended with the inaugural ball of President Obama. Naturally, this led into “At Last”, which was followed by “Listen.” Then, the moment everyone had been waiting for: “Single Ladies.” As a precursor, an enjoyable video montage of all of the infamous YouTube renditions played. Then Beyonce’ performed the song and rocked it like she’d never performed the song before. Most of the audience was brave enough to mimic the video dance moves; most impressive was the 14 year old in front of me. Most hilarious was the 46 year old man across from me.
The show appeared to be over, but the hardcore fans noticed that “Halo” hadn’t been performed yet. Beyonce` took “Halo” as an opportunity for an encore and to interact with fans, as she walked the main floor, shaking hands. Once she got back to the stage she kept repeating the phrase, “I am”, ending the sentence with “I am…yours.” She then went on a rather poetic tangent about how her fans inspire her and how she strives to give a quality show no matter what. She attempted to leave the stage several times, each time coming back to say more to the audience, which didn’t seem pre-planned. As she said she strives to do, she put on a high-quality show. Heartfelt and fervent, Beyonce` bared her soul on the stage. She gave her all and you knew it. From the set design, to the band, to the performance, everything was done with care and work to leave you more than pleased. Beyonce` puts on the type of show that will turn semi-fans into hardcore ones, and skeptics into believers.
Overall pros: 1. Exposing her core fan base to different genres by weaving songs like “U Oughta Know” and Sarah Mclachlan’s “Angel” (Ave Maria) into the set (Last tour she interpolated Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy”, Jill Scott’s “He Loves Me” and Prince’s “If I Was Your Girlfriend”).
2. Connecting with the fans by walking down on the main floor, throwing multiple accessories into the audience, allowing fans access to the corners of the stage/stairs, pointing out select fans and singing “Happy Birthday” to specific fans
Overall cons: maybe one too many costume changes.