November 20 2009
It was a performance that raised the bar for production values. A bar so out of reach of most pop performers, they shouldn’t even try.
This was Beyoncé, finishing the UK leg of her I Am... Tour at the Trent FM Arena last night and as one fan said after the show: “Highlight? I don’t know where to start”.
It could have been when she ‘flew’ on to a circular stage in the middle of the arena and performed a medley of Destiny’s Child hits.
This will have been the highlight for Roy, a middle-aged man picked out by Beyoncé during the thirty minute set and serenaded with Say My Name - a request he initially responded to with a hilarious “sorry, what?” This exchange was projected on to the huge definition screen that served as more than just a backdrop.
It could have been when she sang At Last, while images of the civil rights movement in the US segued to the inauguration of Barack Obama (huge cheer), at which Beyoncé performed that very song.
For others the strongest image will have been the Michael Jackson tribute during the closing number, Halo: “Michael we can see your halo, I pray you won’t fade away.”
As home movie footage of her singing as a child played, the 27-year-old explained it was during this time she “discovered the magic of Michael Jackson”.
In the steady shuffle out of the arena afterwards, a couple could be overheard discussing this as the moment that had them in tears.
For a girl in the front row the highlight may have been the one-to-one, as Beyoncé’ had 9,000 plus people (of course it was a sell-out despite the £49.50-£75 tickets) wish her a happy birthday.
For others, it was the song (and video) of the year: Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It), introduced with clips from the numerous videos uploaded on to YouTube, copying the booty-shaking moves, before she showed us how it’s done.
For me it was the sheer scale of the production. Like Jackson she understands the importance of exceeding expectations, putting on a show like no other and not being afraid to invest whatever it takes to achieve that.
That said it wasn’t perfect.
The surprise warm-up at 8pm, when we expected to see Beyoncé, meant another hour to wait. The English singer Julian Perretta and his band, like a junior Toploader, were out of their depth in such company. His album “is out in February” we were told, repeatedly.
Even Beyoncé can improve. The middle section had too many short song shifts that failed to gather momentum.
At times the sound was distorted and muddy, a bass and drum sludge that shook the place. You couldn’t always hear what she was saying and the video footage was often inaudible.
The ‘I’m overwhelmed by your love’ expressions were a tad cheesy.
A spirit-dampener for a predominantly female audience were the nagging security, repeatedly instructing us not to take photographs and to stand within designated areas.
As she herself asked: “Noddinghairm, did y’all come to dance?”
We had. And the drones in the yellow sweatshirts weren’t going to stop us.
But the dry ice, the lighting, the glitter bombs, the backdrop, the choreography, the costumes changes, the interaction, the humour, The Mamas, her elbow-length hair that was constantly blown out by wind machines, the menacing UFO-style lighting pods, for her alter-ego Sasha Fierce, for her vocal ability during Ave Maria, for If I Were A Boy, Survivor, Broken Hearted Girl, Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It) and Halo... this was the greatest show of the year.
Perhaps the decade.