“She brought it all and turnt it up!”
“She brought it all and turnt it up!”
That was just one in a litany of comments buzzing up and down the aisles following Beyoncé’s bar-raising performance at L.A.’s Staples Center last night (June 28). The sold-out concert marked the launch of the U.S. leg of her Mrs. Carter Show World Tour— and capped the first day of BET’s inaugural three-day music and lifestyle festival, the BET Experience. Queen B’s two-hour musical and visual extravaganza also laid claim to something else: the multi-talented artist’s intent to join the rarefied ranks of ultimate entertainer.
The frenzy for Beyoncé’s hotly anticipated return to L.A. started early as fans swarmed around outside and inside merchandising booths to either take pictures in front of a curtain emblazoned with the singer’s visage or buy posters, T-shirts and concert booklets. At 8:40pm, raucous cheers erupted as a video wall running the length of the stage projected black and white images of an ornately dressed Beyoncé being handed a crown by several female subjects. As several of them seemingly walk off the video and onto the stage, the video wall raises and a brief pyrotechnics display ensues. Then Beyoncé suddenly appears onstage inquiring, “You all ready?”
From the first notes of “Girls Run the World,” she had the audience in her hands. Aided by her ladies—a tight all-female band, a trio of rich background female singers and a troupe of fluid and flexible female dancers (accompanied at times by the show’s two lone male dancers)—Beyoncé alternately gyrated, strutted, swaggered and belted her way through such songs as “Get Me Bodied” (prefaced by a playful call and response with the audience: “Hey, Mrs. Carter”), “Baby Boy,” “Diva,” “Freakum Dress” (wearing a deep-plunging, thigh-high split long red dress), “Party,” “Crazy in Love” and “Naughty Girl” (accented by a snippet of Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You”), “Countdown,” “Single Ladies” (integrating a snippet from the theme song to “The Jeffersons” TV show) and “Grown Woman.”
Effortlessly shifting gears to a more serious tone, she drew the audience in closer with piercing performances of “Flaws and All” (“This song is dedicated to my bee hive,” she said. “Thank you so much for all of your prayers, love, faith”), “If I Were a Boy,” “End of Time,” “I Miss You,” “Why Don’t You Love Me,” and “1 + 1.”
On the latter song, performed while kneeling and laying atop a black piano, a blue cat-suited Beyoncé (in one of several seamless costume changes) ends up on a swing. After sailing over the main floor to a circular catwalk situated in the middle of the venue, she launched into what she called her “favorite part of the show, when I get to get close with you all. I can read all the signs; feel all the energy.” That segued into a spirited audience sing-along on “Irreplaceable,” “Love on Top” and her sole musical nod of the evening to her Destiny’s Child tenure, “Survivor” (before which she gave a shout-out to Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams in the audience).
Beyoncé brought the show to its final moments with “I Was Here” (against a video backdrop of personal highs: a shot of her with Blu Ivy, with President Obama, with Destiny’s Child). That was followed by a brief a cappella salute to Whitney Houston (also a sly take-that nod to Inauguration lip-synch naysayers) on “I Will Always Love You” before moving into a poignant rendition of “Halo.” Unfortunately, a hoped-for encore didn’t materialize. And she didn't perform "Standing on the Sun."
That said, a strong-voiced Beyoncé delivered a power-packed two hours, treating fans to a kaleidoscope of colorful imagery and on-point dancing that enhanced rather than overshadowed the music. “I’ve got so much energy,” she said before introducing her band, singers and dancers. “I just want to give it back to you guys.”
Melanie Fiona opened the evening with a well-paced set (including “Give It to Me Right,” “Fool for You,” “It Kills Me” and new free song “Cold Piece”) that perfectly warmed up the crowd.
Beyoncé performs tonight (June 29) in Las Vegas at the MGM Grand Arena with opener Luke James before returning to the Staples Center on July 1 for a second performance. James will be on board through her Aug. 5 show at Brooklyn's Barclays Center, with the exception of Dallas.