Beyoncé’s second inaugural performance didn’t have the impact of her version of Etta James’s “At Last” in 2009. Singing “The Star-Spangled Banner” this time, she still inevitably stopped the show.
Whether at Glastonbury or her nation’s capital, Beyoncé’s performances are designed to be projected through big screens, allowing close-up shows of physicality and emotion. From the actorly glance of stern pensiveness before her muffled beginning, to the triumphantly tossed-back head as she bellowed her big finish, her gaze on the camera never faltered.
The US Marine Band backing her barely registered in the singer’s wake as, in the soul tradition, her voice hung just behind them in the verses. The days of Jimi Hendrix’s Woodstock deconstruction of “The Star-Spangled Banner” seemed very far away, but Beyoncé is a more blandly inclusive figure.
Preceding her, James Taylor’s “America the Beautiful” had a wandering, folk frailty – it could have been the veteran left-wing patriot Pete Seeger up there. Kelly Clarkson’s “My Country, ’Tis of Thee” was blowsily overblown in TV talent-show style, missing every mark of emotion.
They were all just warm-up acts for Beyoncé.
As her bold vocal surge subsided, Mr Obama must momentarily have felt like one too.
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