About two-thirds of the way through Beyonce’s high-voltage, high-fashion performance Tuesday night at the BB&T Center, the singer placed a stiletto-ed heel onto a trapeze and rose high above the crowd, gliding nearly the length of the arena, light reflecting off her glittery violet body suit, before she gently touched down on a second stage at the other end.
But this was not a diva moment. There, on a small, horseshoe-shaped platform that brought her within arm’s length of the sold-out crowd, Mrs. Carter swung into the bouncy charms of her 2006 hit “Irreplaceable.” The song’s spare arrangement, carried at first only by an acoustic guitar, returned it closer to its original country roots, and a major singalong broke out between singer and fans.
As she crooned, Beyonce reached out to touch the braided heads of young girls held by their mothers at the front of the stage and the production’s video cameras, which had been locked on the star for more than an hour, were now turned on the crowd. Video screens surrounding the main stage filled with the faces of giddy young fans, not unlike a night at Marlins Park.
“You are such a beautiful audience. Thank y’all,” Beyonce said.
If it was a moment that was heavily choreographed –– and it will very likely be repeated at Wednesday night’s sold-out performance at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami –– the emotional connection the Texas native was after felt no less real. And that was the unexpected takeaway for this Beyonce rookie: For all her hit records, magazine covers, publicity gaffes and celebrity husband, she still seems surprisingly genuine.
Most of the evening, which covered 23 songs in two hours, was devoted to the daring fashion, sexy dance moves and girl-power anthems that have made Beyonce a pop star of global influence.
The wide stage was clear, with a long, horizontal LCD video screen rising and lowering behind her. It was the source for a recurring video set piece: Beyonce as troubled English Renaissance monarch, which allowed her to wear a lot of fetishy get-ups.
A raised level behind the stage held an eight-piece, all-female band –– two keyboards, guitar, bass, drums, trumpet, alto and tenor sax –– as well as her bodacious, leather-clad backup singers, the Mamas. Eight female dancers and two male soloists, Les Twins (yes, identical), completed the talented supporting cast.
Beyonce made her intentions clear with the opening number, “Run the World (Girls),” the arena echoing with the refrain: “Who are we? Girls! What we run? The world!” The crowd –– an impressive mix of demographics: from age 6 to 60s, black, brown, white, female, male and somewhere in between –– stood throughout.
“This is a show to stand up and dance like you’re the only person in the room,” she told the cheering crowd at the outset.
“Get Me Bodied” got all kinds of bodies bumping as Beyonce channeled Tina Turner onstage, and “Naughty Girl” combined video allusions to Madonna’s “Vogue” with the orgasmic vocal sample from Donna Summer’s 1975 disco classic “Love to Love You Baby.” If Beyonce borrows freely from her elders, her taste is impeccable.
The party rock of 2006’s “Freakum Dress” was fueled by a lengthy rock-guitar solo complete with pyrotechnics coming out each end. Yes, it was awesome.
Other highlights included a soaring version of “Why Don’t You Love Me,” from the 2008 “Sasha Fierce” album, and the torchy 2011 tear-jerker “1+1,” given an achingly affecting reading by Beyonce while reclined on a piano. These and several other songs (especially “If I Was a Boy”) were vivid reminders of just what a pure, powerful voice she has.
The big hits came late in the evening, with Destiny’s Child's “Survivor” followed by the relentlessly infectious “Crazy in Love” and its equal, “Single Ladies.” Snippets from Beyonce home movies offered a poignant prequel to the Dolly Parton-Whitney Houston ballad “I Will Always Love You,” which was followed by the recent hit “Halo.”
There was no awkward applause for an inevitable encore: Beyonce just came out, thanked her band, dancers and crew, and said good night.
“Thank y’all so much,” she said. “I hope you got a little bit of inspiration tonight. Drive home safely.”