Photo by J.R. Blackwell
Sunday, Sept. 1
This might be one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to write. See, over the last half-dozen years, Beyonce’s become my go-to diva. I love divas. It’s one of my favorite things in life, the discussion of pop divas. I’ve written extensively about it. I think Bey really is one of the biggest queens in the game. “Bow Down” was so much fun; it felt like she still had lots of fight left and she was getting a little pompous—which was exciting, because sometimes her humble, “I’m just a girl from Houston, Texas” act gets a little tiresome. Sometimes you want your diva to oscillate into bad-bitch mode, like Rihanna. Rih destroys the bad-bitch game and puts out so much damn material that, even though there are lots of flops mixed in, there are some hits, too, and we get a record every year. (Plus, an endless stream on Instagram of her smoking blunts and highlighting passages from the Bible.) This is to say, Saturday night’s performance was, of course, hype and a blast. But it wasn’t anything I hadn’t seen before.
Having seen her Revel show and watching—on repeat, for years—her Live at Roseland DVD, I wasn’t surprised at any of the songs she performed. In fact, I think she missed a giant opportunity. Jay was in the house, or so it seemed, and his live vocals popped up for a few seconds as she did a truncated version of “Crazy in Love.” So why couldn’t they do “Part II (On the Run)” from Magna Carta? Because it’s technically a Jay Z song and not enough about Bey? That song is pure fire. I wanted so badly for them to perform it. And no special surprise guests. She couldn’t get someone to show up for one song? We know a lot of the people with whom she’s collaborated in the past are underemployed or at least have a little more time on their hands than she does: Sean Paul, Kelly, Missy, Big Boi, Andre, but I suppose getting Shakira or Gaga or JT on stage for one song would’ve been asking a lot.
She did the usuals: “Girls” to start, “Halo,” “Love on Top,” “Irreplaceable,” “Countdown,” and “End of Time.” There were lots of outfit changes and a little too much of the dramatic video visuals. The interludes were to distract us while she changed clothes, I guess. But going on at 10:30pm and knowing that the show had to be over before midnight, that gave her, at least I’d imagined, an hour and a half performance time. Not bad. That’s enough time to bang out at least a dozen songs or maybe up to 15 if she did a medley or two. But the show came to an abrupt end at 11:45.
There are whispers that her performance was, essentially, a reworked version of the performances she’s been turning in throughout the Mrs. Carter Show tour. To be sure, it was touching and beautiful when she belted out the first few bars of the Whitney Houston version of “I Will Always Love You.” That was unexpected. But there were really only two dancers with her on stage most of the night. Would’ve been fun if, like her Revel show, she had the whole troupe and maybe some more dance breakdowns and freestyling.
I don’t understand why Nine Inch Nails takes the Rocky Stage tonight at 9:30. Why do they get an extra hour—because it’s Sunday night?
My friend Andrew (@RedDlicious) and I had a Twitter exchange that nicely and succinctly captures how to feel about the Beyonce performance. He wrote: “It was mostly a rehash of past performances without any artistic liberty with the material. Incredible, but uninspired.” I left a little despondent but still wiped out because I danced my ass off for every song. I actually lost my balance a couple times, and a guy behind me had to give me a little push to not bump into his girls. (Sorry about that, dude.) Funny thing is, I didn’t take a single picture. Well, I took three garbage pictures. But I actually let myself be in that moment for 75 minutes, and that was pretty liberating. You should try it.