Oldies But Goldies: Beyonce Live In 2013
(With tickets to see Beyonce’s “Formation 2016 Tour” on sale now available (well presale), let’s step back three years and visit Barclay Center for the only time I unequivocally enjoyed Bey Live – IL)
A fun flip of ego and sexiness and betrayal “Why Don’t You Love Me” found Beyonce center stage with back up singers, stop starting the overwhelming I Am… Sasha Fierce hip hoppy modern rhythm patterned track and focusing the fun. She looked stunning, obviously we all loved her, and she looked petulant, pursing her lips on a query in a flirtatious tempting tour de force.
And then on the very next song, her version of The-Dream masterpiece and debatably her greatest recorded moment “1+1” and sang it to hell and back. A lover and seductress, she took the ballad and lifted it to the skies, she took this song that really needed nothing much -a song anybody can cover, and she blew it all out of proportions as she rolled about on the top of a black piano looking stunning and world class.
Therein lies the problem with the “The Mrs.Carter Show” which played the Barclay Center Saturday night: everything is performed at the same high intensity right over the top level of perfection. A dozen costume changes, a dozen dancers, an all girl band, huge LCD screens, a gorgeous stage always in a state of flux like a Broadway musicals set design, and on her 58th night of a world tour that ends December 20th, Queen Bey was comfortable and sharp and in control on stage. But everything she did was overdone.
Arena rock is, of course, Arena rock , and it needs to be played to the rafters but not always. It also needs pacing and patience, it needs seduction and Beyonce doesn’t seduce us, it’s like she doesn’t trust the material to carry the set for us. We are never far from a costume or a set change, the two hour set is a grueling achievement. You leave the show with your eyes popping out of your head whistling the dances but Beyonce is a talented woman and songs as great as “Irreplaceable”, “1+1”, “I Care” and “I Miss You”, need the Queen to relax and just sing them. Audiences aren’t stupid, we could have figured out if she was the real thing or not.
In 2011, I saw the one night only performance at the 2000 SRO Roseland in support of her excellent 4, and awaited her world tour in support of the album. Instead she released a new baby with husband Jay Z , overwhelmed the Superbowl, lip synced at Obama’s Inaugural and has been touring all year.
Byonce arrived at the Arena her husband is so deeply associated with and performed a fine, though no more than fine, set. Part of the blame for the set can be placed at the feet of a room that can not deal with loud music without distorting it into white noise. This destroyed boy candy six packed Luke James, who added Michael Jackson and Marvin Gaye covers to originals like “IOU” -I am hardly the target audience for this, but even if I was, it was so loud all melody was bleed out.
Same thing with Beyonces performance. The first song, the brilliant M.I.A. wannabe “Run The World (Girls)’ was hurt in the 200s (meaning half of the Arena) because all you could hear was the rhythm section and, sure, that’s more or less all there is, that isn’t true on “End Of Time” or “Flaws And All” .
And speaking of “Flaws And All”. Beyonce need never ever do humility, never ever ever pretend to be one of the girls. Beyonce has all the humility of Donald Trump firing Bret Michaels on the Apprentice; she is Superwoman and her claims of inclusiveness where you are paying $160 for the cheapest seats is ridiculous. Can you see the money on stage? Absolutely. But can the average family of four catch the show? Not nearly. This is rich man’s weather even in the nosebleeds.
I said it was a good set and it was, there was enough that worked to offset any overwhelming complaints, 45 minutes in, Beyonce adds “Love To Love You” to her stripper in hell “Naughty Girl” and follows it with the Las Vegas themed “Party” with the dancers performing a version of a Vegas dance troops fan dance.
Strapped to a harness soon after, Beyonce performed the best three songs of the night, “Irreplaceable” followed by “Love On Top” and “Survivor” on a smaller, still spectacular, stage. On the smaller stage she maintained the momentum she chopped up on the main stage. It was a pleasure to just watch her sing for fifteen minutes. Does she have as great a voice as Whitney (she covers “I Will Always Love You”) no, as good as Diana Ross? That would be a positive.
There is much to be said for Beyonce, I myself called 4 the second best album of 2011. She is a fine looking woman, an excellent dancer, set piece after set piece scintillates and excites. Beyonce knows her genre and her position as Queen Bey, She played her audience superbly. But her set lacks pacing and her performance lacks nuance, the sound at Barclay is poor during the louder numbers and everything is very loud. Disappointing but by no means disastrous.