Music review: Behold Beyoncé, the cybernetic goddess of R&B

3.00

LG Arena, Birmingham

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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

    Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

    Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
    Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

    Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

    When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
    5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

    In grandfather's footsteps

    5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
    Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

    Martha Stewart has flying robot

    The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
    Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

    Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

    Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
    A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

    A tale of two presidents

    George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

    The dining car makes a comeback

    Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
    Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

    Gallery rage

    How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

    Eye on the prize

    Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
    Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

    Women's rugby

    Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices