That picture pretty much sums up the whole show. I don’t need to add my words of praise to the thousands already littered across the internet, but I feel the need to enthuse about this show to someone outside my immediate family. Although we were sitting closer to Mount Olympus than the stage, our seats were fairly far around the arena and the view was pretty good – one of the many reasons The O2 is an awesome venue. However, the venue is only as good as the artist you’re seeing, which, in this case, made the whole evening mind-blowing.
The show opened with fireworks, flashing lights and, after her backing dancers finished showing off their Versailles-inspired outfits, Beyoncé popping up like a pretty slice of toast. She kicked off with Run the World (obviously) and brought the house down. That was more or less the reaction to every song, of which there were over twenty. I lost count because of the sweaty intensity up in level four.
I was a tad disappointed at the lack of hits in the first half, but the fact that Beyoncé can pretty much whip out any song from her back catalogue and have an arena of forty thousand sing every word back to her is a testament to her longevity and great songwriting. Flaws and All, a bonus track from B’Day and Freakum Dress aren’t radio singles by any means, but they’re incredible songs, both of which had appropriately amazing costumes to accompany.
Speaking of costumes, there were several changes, with one or two outfits only out for a song each. Accompanying each costume change was a short video that gave clues as to the next song; a little dance routine by the two male dancers; or a piano solo that was a pleasant change in tempo before a stunning rendition of 1+1.
After this performance and dressed in a head-to-toe purple sequin catsuit, Beyoncé flew like a tropical bird onto the middle stage, banging out such hits as Irreplaceable, Love on Top and Survivor – I was waiting for a Destiny’s Child mash-up with Bootylicious and Say My Name in there, however if you’re going to pick one, it had to be Survivor, trademark dance moves included.
We were given a little preview of what her fifth album might sound like with a African-themed performance of Grown Woman, currently featuring on the Pepsi commercial Beyoncé stars in. It’s a catchy song, perhaps not as mind-blowing as the peach dress Beyoncé commanded around her whilst she was singing it. The show closed with a mini-rendition of I Will Always Love You that segwayed into Halo.
Despite facing criticism for lip-syncing at the inauguration, there’s no doubt that Beyoncé is one of the greatest live acts around. I can think of few solo artists who can command the stage as she did – Lady Gaga’s Monster Ball was on a par with this concert in terms of showmanship, crowd interaction and vocal accuracy. Other reviews I’ve read ask Beyoncé to drop the feminist act; I would argue there’s nothing wrong with celebrating women, which is all she’s doing. The odd song about ‘sticking it to the man/boyfriend’ doesn’t mean that she’s a man-hater. Beyoncé has firmly established herself over the past ten years as a unique songwriter, performer and musical icon – let’s just hope she isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.