Beyoncé At Citifield, Wednesday, June 8th, 2016, Reviewed
I am not certain who it helps when Beyonce practices sexual segregation by announcing, at a freezing cold Citifield Wednesday night, that “All women are strong”. This is neither truism nor aphorism, fuck, it isn’t even a tautology, it is complete nonsense as well as sexism. The audience at Citifield, 70% female easy, cheered on the top of their voices but for what? For nonsense on the face of it, it implies a positive vibe in contradistinction to men, men who would never say such a thing about their own sex because, to be absolutely frank, it is so needy as to be creepy.
Beyonce is an Oprah for the 2010s, attempting to travel between love and self-empowerment, though Bey does it strictly through music -she isn’t a cultural shaper she is a musical shape shifter. She appears to be about sisterhood but the difference between Oprah and Bey is Oprah was a flashpoint for female and black values, and, in the end, Beyoncé is about Beyoncé. But being Bey is something she can do well on record, and much less well in person. I have seen her in concert many times, actually just about every time, and I have never admired her live performance. She is too emphatic, too needy, too regimented, and too choreographed on stage. She is pandering, and not to me, but to Oprah’s audience “You are just as good as any man”, she claims, as she drops an album, a superb one true, that seems to give all the real power over to Jay Z. After all, as Bey herself noted, Jay Z had to give his permission for all lyrical content. Her last tour was the Mrs. Carter tour.
I don’t really care. I don’t care if women are buying into this nonsense, or if men are, it is all about the music and the music is rock solid. Beyonce has recorded three brilliant albums, two already in, and one will soon be in, my top five albums of their respective years. Four, Beyonce and Lemonade, need no excuses from me, they are deep r&b tracks with an eye on hip hop. Superbly sung, well put together, and very well played. By committee, sure, but in much the same way as Chrysler was managed by committee. Beyonce is the Lee Iacocca of modern pop. The CEO of her sound.
On stage, she has been too precise for her passion. The Jay Z-Bey On The Run concert was a disastrous mish mash of moving parts, it was too busy, too clever for its own good: it never caught fire as the business distracted from the extremely manufactured sound. Last night was busy as well, but it stopped to breath time after time, even an acapella “Kitty Kat”.
The sound was pretty darn good as well, r&b isn’t hip hop so a strict comparison to the standard bearer of lousy sound, “Bad Boy Records” at Barclay isn’t a firm fit. But DJ Khaled is, and he sounded great as well. DJ Khaled’s terrific concept for this tour was to have the actual performers come out and perform the hooks. DJ Khaled was joined by French Montana, Ty Dolla $ign, Yo Gotti, YG, Fabolous, Tinashe, Kent Jones, Swizz Beatz and The LOX, all great to see, especially Mr. Alicia Keyes himself.
Two things had a hand in making this less than the show it should have been.
1 – It was brutally, I would claim bizarrely, cold. After years of concert going I knew what to expect and brought two layers and it wasn’t nearly enough. There was a wind blowing round the stadium and people were too underdressed and what was worse…
2 – Beyonce didn’t go on till 945p. Look, if you can afford these tickets either your parents paid or you’re a working stiff. I am the latter, and I’d been awake since 430am. By the time Bey got on the stage, I was done for.
It is almost as though we were being punished.
The set itself was terrific, an epic dive into infidelity, feminism, black power, pop power, rap, hip hop, more rock, dancing (or something like that) and all topped by the Queen Bey. Beyonce throws herself into the deep end and really, she never drowned or got muddled. She wasn’t quite medleying the songs but she sort of was, cutting them down by a verse and a chorus, segueing between bits, throwing snippets of other people’s songs, keeping everything on its toes and dancing. Nothing was bad but two new songs, “Hold Up” and “All Night”, which I missed a little on the album, was the vocal performance of the evening.
Beyonce is a great star and this evening gave everything the audience wanted. A singing, dancing, miamasma of sin, guilt and redemption. But not Beyonce’s sin, guilt and redemption because she isn’t sorry.