“A little sweat never hurt nobody,” hollers Beyonce Knowles during her track Get Me Bodied. It's barely a quarter of the way through this frankly mighty first UK date of her Mrs Carter world tour, and surely all of the twelve thousand plus in attendance could do little but agree.
The first time the former Destiny's Child played in Scotland was eleven years ago in a shopping mall come concert hall near Glasgow Airport, and her pouting, serious-faced procession of ballads flattered to deceive.
By contrast this near two-hour epic is a ferocious distillation of musical styles old and new and a stunning declaration of intent that Knowles intends to be recognised as the defining pop artist of her era. It was, at the very least, one of the hardest working shows likely to be witnessed on a stage this year, and with barely a drop of minutely-choreographed sweat to be seen.
From the first minute something unique is promised, with a procession of dancers emerging from the stage for an extended and elaborately balletic routine before a giant LED screen, the tone mysterious and teasing as the screen eventually raises to reveal Knowles floating on slowly in a neck-to-toe ballgown.
The music is something else, a blend of her familiar deep-lunged torch singing with a thundering bass containing a heavy dubstep influence amidst the opening Haunted, segueing through an unearthly, Invasion of the Body Snatchers screech into Drunk in Love.
“Y'all gonna sing along with me, right?” she commands, legs akimbo on a chair in a sequinned catsuit, lost in a kaleidoscope of lights on the screens behind her.
Un-Bey-Lievable: Ridiculous things Beyonce has done
Un-Bey-Lievable: Ridiculous things Beyonce has done
1/15 Beyoncé admits lipsynching at Barack Obama's inauguration
The 'Crazy In Love' singer performed US national anthem 'The Star Spangled Banner' at the president's Inauguration Day in January 2013, but lipsynched to a pre-recorded track. She blamed the decision on her being a 'perfectionist' and wanting Obama's day to be memorable. 'Due to no proper sound check I did not feel comfortable taking a risk,' she told a press conference.
2/15 Beyoncé attacked by PETA for Super Bowl outfit
In February 2013, Beyoncé was publically attacked by animal rights organisation PETA for wearing a Rubin Singer-designed leotard made of 'python, iguana and cow' for her Super Bowl Half Time performance with Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams of Destiny's Child.
3/15 Beyoncé makes people cringe in sickly sweet documentary
It's the sickly-sweet Bey-and-Z love-in that was her Life is But a Dream documentary. Released in February 2013, just after Valentine's Day, the autobiographical TV film was directed and produced by the singer herself. Her marriage to Jay Z, her miscarriage, the birth of Blue Ivy (not literally)...it's all here.
4/15 Beyoncé breaks US trade embargo and visits Cuba
The pop star sparked a small furore in April 2013 when she holidayed in Communist island Cuba with Jay Z to celebrate their fifth wedding anniversary. A long-standing US trade embargo against Cuba prevents most Americans from traveling their without a government license. It is unknown whether they had obtained a license or not.
5/15 Feminist icon Beyoncé refuses to say she is a feminist
Leading women's magazine Vogue asked the pop star whether she considers herself a feminist in April 2013. Her non-committal response? 'That word can be very extreme but I guess I am a modern-day feminist. I do believe in equality but why do you have to choose what type of woman you are? I'm happily married. I love my husband.' Because you can't be a feminist and love your partner too Bey?
6/15 'Independent Woman' Beyoncé names her world tour after her husband
She is hailed as a feminist icon around the world for tracks such as 'Independent Women', 'Survivor' and 'Run The World (Girls)'. But Beyoncé chose to name her 2013/14 world tour after her husband, Shawn 'Jay Z' Carter instead. She values her marriage - great - but what message does this send to young women who look up to her as a symbol of self-empowerment?
7/15 Beyoncé bans photographers from world tour
After the press published 'unflattering' snaps of the singer during her Super Bowl peformance in February, her publicist was brought in to put an end to such disrespectful behaviour. To prevent a repeat, no photo credentials were granted for her Mrs Carter Show World Tour and instead, Beyoncé's own photographer Frank Micelotta was hired to capture her best angles.
8/15 Beyoncé banned from Pyramids by 'Egypt's Indiana Jones'
Controversial archaeologist Dr Zahi Hawass was upset when Beyoncé arrived late to his tour of the Pyramids, booked when visiting Egypt. Hawass banished the 'rude' star from the ancient site, claiming she never apologised for being impolite. 'I said Beyoncé was stupid and I left,' he said.
9/15 Beyoncé goes vegan with rapper husband Jay Z
In December 2013, the high profile couple decided to take part in the 22 Days Challenge, which aims to change people’s dietary and exercise habits by encouraging them to omit all animal-based products from their diets.
10/15 Beyoncé dines in a vegan restaurant decked out in fox fur
Newly vegan Beyoncé no doubt ruffled a few feathers when she wore a fox fur coat to a meat-free organic restaurant. The singer was spotted in the £2,915 Christopher Kane parka with a real fur collar as she accompanied husband Jay Z to a vegan meal at Native Foods in Los Angeles before Christmas 2013.
11/15 Beyoncé guerilla releases album
Comprising14 original tracks (including a collaboration with her daughter Blue Ivy, husband Jay Z and Frank Ocean) and 17 videos, Beyoncé randomly released her self-titled fifth studio album on iTunes as a mid-December Christmas surprise in 2013.
12/15 Beyoncé shops for her new album in Walmart
Not only did Beyoncé play the politician’s game at the US store (yes, she did stop to kiss a baby’s forehead on the way round), but she played Santa as well, showering shoppers with 750 gift cards worth $50 each. Presumably so they could spend them on her new album. Or a bottle of her perfume. Or something.
13/15 Beyoncé is 2013's most searched for celebrity on the internet
Beyoncé Knowles beat the headline-grabbing competition to be named the world’s highest ranking human being of 2013 according to Bing, leaving the rest of celebdom trailing in her warbling wake. Controversial pop star Miley Cyrus only manged number 9 on E! Online's list.
14/15 Beyoncé samples space shuttle disaster in pop song
The singer's decision to use a six-second audio clip from the 1986 Challenger catastrophe in which seven astronauts lost their lives was deemed 'inappropriate in the extreme' by NASA representatives at the end of 2013. Words breaking news of a 'major malfunction' open her song 'XO' from fifth album Beyoncé.
15/15 Beyoncé poses in the middle of Leonardo da Vinci's 'The Last Supper' replica
Closing 2013 in distinctly dubious style, the singer posted a series of pictures on her Instagram account showing her plonked in front of the Italian artist's masterpiece. She is pictured posing in a bright green skirt and pink bustier in the middle of the painting, right in front of Jesus.
The darker electro influence of this winter's latest, eponymous album is embraced fully in the early stages of the show, from the reappropriation of If I Were a Boy - bass crackling like thunder, the strings and some lyrics of the Verve's Bittersweet Symphony blended in, and a chugging guitar riff buried somewhere in the mix - to the raw tumult of Bow Down, prefaced by a big-budget, grand guignol film clip portraying Knowles as a vampire queen in white face paint.
Flawless was an exercise in sheer sass and retro Bronx street chic accessorised with leather shorts, braziers burning onstage as her crew danced and she spat out that commanding “I woke up like this” chorus line, an “I am what I am” for the 2010s.
Pages could be written outside the bounds of reportage about her decision to use Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's TED speech on feminism (beginning “we teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller...” and spelled out here in rousing, ten foot tall words) and of where her own work and image fits the sentiment of such a statement, but there's no question Knowles is a model of power and control throughout, even when her muse extends to writhing atop a grand piano or grinding through the disco-soaked majesty of Blow.
The call and response demands for more love from her crowd during Why Don't You Love Me were particularly mesmerising in their assurance, although perhaps the most telling story of Knowles' confidence in her music and performance came with shortened versions of the formation-dancing Crazy in Love and Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It) which once blew away Glastonbury and a watching nation.
In her career as with her live show, she keeps on moving on and you can't take your eyes or ears off her.Reuse content