Beyoncé, Roseland Ballroom, New York City
Tuesday 23 August 2011
Beyoncé may have severed business ties with her father Matthew earlier this year, but it will take more than the simple nullifying of a contract to remove the strong work ethic he spent almost 30 years instilling in his daughter. Ever since the singer's new album 4 emerged in June, it has seen stuttering sales and disappointing chart showings. This is all relative of course; 99.9 per cent of the world's performing artists would do cartwheels of celebration if they'd managed to shift a million albums in two months and scored two Top 30 singles in the US Billboard Chart. But for the Texan megastar, such achievements are piffling and have prompted this series of hastily arranged intimate club shows in an attempt to reboot the campaign.
It doesn't take long to deduce just how much hard work has gone into the performance. Backed by a flawless all-girl band featuring strings, brass, backing singers and dancers, the first half of the set is a watertight resume of Beyoncé's career so far. At points the tone of her biographical banter is slightly self-congratulatory – references to her haul of Grammies and Golden Globes are meant as subtle asides but feel like sledgehammers of satisfaction. But brilliantly slick executions of Destiny's Child classics like "Bills, Bills, Bills" and "Survivor", as well as early solo hits such as the still-thrilling "Crazy in Love", are pertinent reminders that the awards are entirely merited.
Done with preaching to the converted, Beyoncé then tackles the entirety of 4 from start to finish. This is where the Knowles family traits of diligence and industriousness surface more prominently than ever. Instead of opting for simple replication, the band help her to serve up revamped versions of the songs. The bland ballads (which dominate much of the album) benefit most from the makeover. "I Care" suddenly teems with an awe-inspiring stadium rock bombast and while "End of Time" makes a decent account of itself on record, it sounds like a modern R'n'B monster through the Roseland speakers.
If Beyoncé had cobbled together a greatest hits set with a few stunning dance routines thrown in for good measure, the 3,500 strong crowd would have no doubt reacted with a similar delirium. But as tonight shows, Beyoncé clearly doesn't consider herself as being too famous or decorated for a spot of hard graft. Daddy should be very proud.
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