It's kind of scary how much my opinion of Beyoncé has changed since the release of "If I Were A Boy"/"Single Ladies" in the middle of last year. I'd always enjoyed her singles but never really made it the whole way through an album without falling asleep and was genuinely mystified by her incredible success. After all, everyone knows that Kelly and Michelle were the talented ones in Destiny's Child! Things finally clicked for me with "Sasha Fierce", which I think is pretty close to the perfect urban pop album and have basically transformed into a hardcore Bey stan. Even so, I wasn't expecting to enjoy her concert nearly as much as I did. I love her "Beyoncé Experience" live DVD and have watched it several dozen times but still found it a little boring in places. Well, I can't fault a single aspect of the "I Am…" tour. About half way through the concert I told my friend that I thought it was one of the best shows I'd ever seen and by the end of it, I was struggling to think of a better performance. Kylie puts on a bigger extravaganza, Pink is more acrobatic, Madonna was a better dancer and Barbra Streisand's voice is in a league of its own but Beyoncé pulls all four skills together better than anyone else. This post reviews the show on Friday the 19th of September at Sydney's Acer Arena. I took the pics myself (as you can probably tell).
Before I get on with reviewing the concert, I guess I should say a little something about the support acts - Jessica Mauboy and Flo Rida. Everyone knows I'm a huge fan of Jess and she proved yet again why she's currently one of the country's biggest pop stars. Her voice was in fine form and she's learning to use the stage a lot better than the last time I saw her but I have to get this off my chest. Can Sony please hire her a new stylist? Jessica is the proverbial girl next door, dressing her like a common whore - complete with thigh high vinyl fuck me boots straight from the bargain bin at Adult World - just makes her look ridiculous. Apart from that, it was a fun little showcase. I wish I could say the same for Flo Rida, who spent most of his excruciatingly long set throwing towels, shoes and jewelry into the crowd. I would have gone for a piss but I didn't want to lose my spot at the front of the stage. Things finally picked up when they started playing a Solange medley over the PA to warm up the audience (international $ucce$$ at last!) but by 9pm I was very ready for her big sister to take the stage.
I had chills when Beyoncé finally opened the show with the first verse of "Déjà Vu" and they just kept on multiplying when she burst into "Crazy In Love". The first thing that grabs you about Beyoncé is how breathtakingly beautiful she is person. I seriously got wood when she strutted down the stage in her gold Tierry Mugler corset. She was accompanied by a half naked man, so I'm giving myself the benefit of the doubt! Speaking of the stage, it was pretty simple - just a huge screen, a cat walk and her band. It was actually refreshing to see a show focus on the performer instead of trying to distract from their shortcomings with special effects and explosions. Next on the setlist was an extremely sexy rendition of "Naughty Girl" followed by two of the highlights from "B'Day". I was very happily surprised to hear the amazing #1 single that never was "Freakum Dress" live and positively beside myself when she performed "Get Me Bodied", which is one of my all time favourite Beyoncé songs. Her dancers even did the Naomi Campbell walk!
The next segment perfectly illustrates where Beyoncé has matured and developed as an artist over the past year. She's always been at home belting out catchy club bangers but I'm loving the softer, more organic side that's emerged recently. "Smash Into You" is one of the many highlights on "Sasha Fierce" and it sounds even better live. Beyoncé's voice really is a thing of beauty when she's not trying to oversing the lyrics like Leona Lewis and Celine Dion. I think she's finally realised that and turned the vocal gymnastics down a notch. In one of the concert's most fabulous over the top diva moments, she changes into a completely ridiculous see through wedding dress to perform a medley of Sarah McLachlan's "Angel" and "Ave Maria". The former was a nice surprise and the latter gave me a whole new appreciation for a song I've strangely chosen to ignore until now.
The concert then completely switched gears when Beyoncé brings sexy back in a tiny leather mini skirt to belt out a pitch perfect rendition of "If I Were A Boy". The song is given a slightly surreal rock twist by mashing it with Alanis Morrisette's "You Outta Know". Hearing Bey sing "Are you thinking of me when you fuck her?" was one of the highlights of my night! A video interlude of the diva battling a leopard (while dressed in little more than body paint) to the soundtrack of "Sweet Dreams" is visually breathtaking but I really would have preferred to see her perform it on stage. After a quick costume change, Beyoncé returned to belt out "Diva" - my least favourite song from "Sasha Fierce". I don't know if it was the fabulous bikini with headlights outfit or just hearing the crowd sing along to the ridiculous lyrics but I really enjoyed it and have been playing the track at home ever since. I'll have to edit my previous nasty comments because I think I'm finally under its tragic spell. The next song is a completely different story. "Radio" is the best track Rihanna has never released and needs to be the album's next single. It's criminal to waste something this catchy and poptastic. The segment finished on a high by revisiting one of my favourite tracks from "Dangerously In Love" - the highly underrated "Me, Myself & I", which Beyoncé dedicated to all the high and dry, desperate bitches in the audience. Bless.
After ditching the headlights, Bey performed her fabulous ode to monster cocks otherwise known as "Ego". Interestingly, it was the Kanye West remix. Next up was the great but strangely ignored "Sasha Fierce" track "Hello". I really love the lyrics and think it would have made a much better single than "Broken Hearted Girl". It was then time for a new costume, which allowed Beyoncé's buxom backing singers to take over the stage. I don't think I've ever enjoyed a costume change more in my entire life. Someone needs to give The Mamas their own record deal - they are utterly amazing in their own right. Speaking of amazingness, Beyoncé then re-appeared in a gold dress and was wrapped in harness before being hoisted above the crowd on wires. Seeing the rich man's Solange perform spins in mid-air while singing "Baby Boy" was one of the night's most spectacular moments.
My favourite part of the show took place after Bey landed on the runway and started interacting with the crowd. I know Beyoncé has a reputation for being fake but there was something undeniably real about this segment. Few performers look like they're enjoying themselves so thoroughly and it was a thrill being so close to a true superstar. Hearing the crowd loudly sing along to "Irreplaceable" was strangely touching, while "Check On It" is one of those songs I never go out of my way to listen to but always enjoy when I hear it. That tune was followed by a medley of Destiny's Child's hits, which almost brought the house down. I love it that Beyoncé embraces her past unlike some other divas I could mention. I thought the next song - "Upgrade U" was a strange choice but it was fun to hear one of the more obscure "B'Day" album tracks. Things got more than a little sexy when Bey broke into "Videophone", another piece of "Sasha Fierce" filler that has grown on me a lot over the past year. The segment ended with Beyoncé performing "Say My Name" to an audience member. All in all it was probably the best 20 minutes of any concert I've ever seen.
By the time Bey returned to perform "At Last" (complete with footage from Barack Obama's inauguration), the show had already been going for almost 2 hours and she was yet to miss a single note or dance move. Beyoncé really is pop music's ultimate professional, which strangely is the reason I think so many people hate her. She's simply better than their faves. "Dreamgirls" finally got a look in with a fabulous rendition of "Listen" but the biggest highlight was still to come. I loved seeing all the "Single Ladies" youtube videos on the big screen but watching Beyoncé perform the "Single Ladies" dance was something I'll never forget. She had the entire audience singing along and doing the hand shake. I get why Kanye dropped his bundle at the MTV Awards. I love Taylor Swift but "Single Ladies" is a true pop culture phenomenon. For the big finale, Bey performed an extended version of "Halo", which she dedicated to Michael Jackson before inviting a child on stage and singing the song to her. It was extremely cheesy and I'm not sure it's entirely tasteful to sing lyrics like "I hope you don't fade away" to a young girl obviously suffering from cancer but it was clearly heartfelt and all the people around me were crying, so maybe I'm just being a horrible cynic. Anyway, it was little more than a tiny blip on probably the best concert performance I've ever seen. Fingers crossed they release this on DVD because I already know what I want for Christmas!