Music review: Behold Beyoncé, the cybernetic goddess of R&B
LG Arena, Birmingham
Nick Hasted has been a film journalist since 1986. He writes about film, music, books and comics for The Independent, Sight & Sound, Uncut and Little White Lies. He has published two books: The Dark Story of Eminem (2002), and You Really Got Me: The Story of The Kinks (2011), both from Omnibus Press.
Friday 26 April 2013
It’s when Beyoncé shows she can fly, too, that my doubts momentarily crack. She has the help of an elegant trapeze on a zip-wire, it’s true, but as she zooms through the air in a glittering body-suit above tens of thousands of gawping fans, landing amongst them in mere seconds, it’s hard not to cheer.
The royal purple of that outfit suits Beyoncé Knowles. She is an imperial star these days, the reigning queen of pop.
Before she even appeared in Birmingham in the first week of her latest world tour, a video prelude showed her as a powdered Marie Antoinette. The statuesque hauteur with which she soon tosses a carefully sweat-stained towel into the crowd, unsmiling and barely flexing an arm let’s you know who’s in charge.
When she stomps her foot to signal the start of “End of Time”, a Godzilla clang then rings through the arena. From her regularly tossed, leonine mane to her thickly muscled athlete’s legs, she has honed her body into a force of nature to match her cybernetic version of R&B’s relentless, cold momentum.
And the Amazonian strength of her presence, a sort of feminine macho, gives the feminist intent of “Run the World (Girls)” some credence. Even as she runs through the gamut of scantily-clad male showgirl fantasies, it’s the girls filling this place who gawk and adore her.
Beyoncé follows every current stadium trend tonight, crossing big-budget movie clips and Broadway musical dance moves, with platoons of backing singers and dancers acting as extras. As the Marie Antoinette conceit plays out on screen, the fireworks shower down and ballerinas and male marionettes cavort, this is pop as a Cecil B. DeMille spectacle.
Whether she bothered to sing live for her friend President Obama’s recent inauguration, as many suspect she didn’t, isn’t relevant here. Her voice is anyway a more sparingly deployed thunderbolt than her melisma-mad idols Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston, and she rides “1+1”’s blowsy ballad well, just before she steps from the top of the piano she’s lounging on into that trapeze. But the potential poignancy of the exposed human voice isn’t needed in this show’s slick barrage.
Beyoncé indicates a maze of personas on-stage: swaggering “Diva”, the sweetly giving wife of “End of Time”, the “bitch in the afternoon” of “Flaws And All”, a gender-teasing mic-stand-straddler in “If I Were A Boy”.
They are all interchangeable, unconvincing masks for a basically bland star. The religious Texan girl who followed her dreams in Destiny’s Child and married her hip-hop prince, Jay-Z, is somewhere under there. But what makes this show’s largely enervating juggernaut breathe is Beyoncé’s tireless physical effort.
She has created a literal body of work. Gaze on it, ye pop mighty, and despair.
Game of Thrones
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 The difference between a migrant and refugee, in one sentence
- 2 Miley Cyrus calls out hypocrisy of women’s nipples being taboo
- 3 Celebrity Big Brother 2015: Tila Tequila kicked off show after 'describing Hitler as a good man'
- 4 iPhone 5c to be discontinued, no iPhone 6c to replace it
- 5 Blood Moon and Supermoon: September to bring brightest – and dimmest – full Moon of the year on same night
Game of Thrones season 6: Jon Snow theorists believe Ned Stark's son may have a twin sister
Artist takes LSD, draws herself over different stages of the 9-hour trip to show its effects
These Harry Potter lipsticks are sparking all sorts of controversy with Hogwarts fans
Game of Thrones season 6: Director promises most exciting premiere yet 'starts off with a bang'
Hunted: Channel 4 to test 'surveillance Britain' by taking Big Brother to sinister new lengths
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
Labour leadership: Jeremy Corbyn accused of 'deluding' young supporters with 'claptrap'
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn
Iain Duncan Smith calls for urgent ESA overhaul as part of drive to cut down welfare costs