Destiny's Child, Earl's Court, London

R&B princesses crippled by the wind-tunnel acoustics
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The Independent Culture

For the "independent women" of one of their biggest hits, Destiny's Child have a tendency to do what they are told. The middleclass work ethic and church-going morals of Beyoncé Knowles and her manager dad mean that theirs is the least excessive of pop fables.

Three early band mates who exhibited rebellious or unprofessional streaks were ruthlessly removed. Knowles' cousins Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams were the showbiz troopers who remained to conquer the world with 2001'sSurvivor. As the millions flooded in, they admirably kept a control of their careers beyond ancestors like The Supremes. But, for all the fibre-funk modernity of their best music, there is a meek conservatism to their world view, in full effect on latest albumDestiny Fulfilled. Lyrically, they shrug off men when single, but wait on them when attached, as on the alarming new single "Catch 2 U".

With their peculiarly American, materialist brand of Christianity, they also thought nothing of McDonald aggressively sponsoring this tour. And early intentions to keep their clothes chastely on have also been teased away by delighted men's mags. They're independent but aimless; energetic but empty. With Beyoncé's burgeoning solo success, and their new album's disappointing diffidence, even their career clock may be ticking down.

The teenage screams that almost split my eardrums when they appeared beg to differ, of course. This first moment, as Destiny's Child walk up to the footlights, silhouetted in diaphonously bat-winged dresses, is the most truly dramatic of the shows. As the command the crowd to "Say My Name", their pastel dresses make them look more like fairytale princesses than the usual R&B porn queens.

Everything that follows, though, is fatally crippled by a venue with the acoustics of a wind tunnel, reducing the music to a randomly echoing rumble.

Destiny's Child tried to compensate a Vegas-style sequence of costume changes and cheesy floor shows.

On "Soldier", the church girls' unlikely pean to ghetto street toughs, male dancers midway between strippers and dirty old men in their long black leather macs take centre stage.

The female bonding song "Girls" stimulates sympathetic dancing in the isles. But it is when the three take turns in pushing their Gospel-trained vocal chords to the limit that some instants of humanity peep through. Beyoncé is the most glass-shattering. But the trio harmonising, with white-cassocked backing singers and neon crosses behind them, shows them at their best. The contrast with the booty-shaking burlesque routine on "Survivor" and "Loose My Breasts" is a strangely suitable climax.

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