That Mrs. Carter, she sure can sing. And shake a tail feather. And fill out a pop extravaganza. Beyonce asserted her place as queen of pop music in South Florida this week, with a sold out show at Sunrise’s BB&T Center Tuesday and another at Miami’s AmericanAirlines Arena on Wednesday. Announced just after the spectacle of her Super Bowl half-time show, the Mrs. Carter Show World Tour is named for Queen Bey’s role as wife to that other self-proclaimed pop sovereign, Shawn Jay-Z Carter.
Tuesday’s concert didn’t just have it all, it overflowed – even for this age of music-accompanied visual excess. You had Beyonce in 10 or so (you lose count) elaborately abbreviated rear-view enhancing outfits; beautifully designed visual and lighting effects, a girl-power battalion of nine model-Amazon dancers and an 11-piece female band, including a guitarist whose instrument spouted flames in a screaming rock solo. The only men onstage were the French dancing brothers Les Twins, identically fabulous rubber-bodied acrobat/physical comedians. And of course there were the elaborate videos that frame the production and Beyonce’s regal image – as Marie Antoinette, lost princess, African queen, and adored pop icon.
The 31-year old mother of Blue Ivy entered in a blast of lights and flame, singing Run the World (Girls) in a glittery white mini-skirted bodysuit. (Despite rumors of a second pregnancy in May, Beyonce showed no sign of a baby bump.) “You don’t know how much I feed off your energy,” she said to the adoring crowd chanting her name. “And I wanna give it all back to you.” Then she launched Flaws and All, where her lover’s adoration provokes her own “I don’t know why you love me baby, and that’s why I love you.” Like the other power ballads, the love expressed seemed to be between her and the audience.
Beyonce has a hell of a voice; big and gutsy, capable of brassy blues and rock power or sweet soul soaring. It’s doubly impressive in an age of lip-synching and vocal distortion. She could sing circles around Madonna, a more veteran blonde pop manipulator. But Madonna has something Beyonce doesn’t; songs with a memorable melody and an engaging beat. The wall of sound Tuesday featured skittery and elaborately orchestrated hip-hop, screaming rockers, and power ballads. But for all the volume and expert orchestration (the band included a wildly gesturing horn section and a terrific trio of back-up singers), the music rarely got you either singing or dancing along. Many of the songs seemed to be shorter versions, separated by staging and effect more than sound. When she briefly segued from the showy S&M images of Naughty Girl into Donna Summer’s Love to Love You Baby, the disco classic was infinitely sexier.
Beyonce’s hip-popping charisma and sleek stamina are impressive. Among the best visual moments were a swirling white feather fan dance for Party, the Baroque burlesque of Freakum Dress, and Beyonce writhing atop a grand piano in a blindingly glittery blue catsuit for 1+1, before speeding over the crowd’s head on a large hook. There was lots of hairography – not only Beyonce, but her dancers spent the show with their tresses blowing in a mechanical breeze.
There were moments when she showed a more genuine magnetism, like in the swingy, exuberant R&B anthem Love on Top, and the drama queen celebration of Survivor, a Destiny’s Child hit that had the crowd singing ecstatically. The longest run of memorable songs came at the end. They included the strutting Afro-exotic celebration of Grown Woman, Beyonce declaring her maturity “with my babies and my booty” as the dancers wheeled strollers onstage. She soared beautifully but briefly in an abbreviated rendition of I Will Always Love You, and closed with Halo, her most moving ballad of the night. But even a snappingly sexy performance of Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It), her phenomenally danceable, viral megahit, seemed less exciting live than it does on video.