Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit

Beyonce – The O2, London 30/04/13

30 April 2013, 17:49 | Written by Thomas Hannan

Who runs the world? Beyonce. Or at least the world in which her fans live, giving it a population of millions.

Before she’s even appeared on stage, she’s already been granted three rapturous receptions, via whoops for the advert for her perfume Fever, a Mexican wave approving of her patronage of Pepsi cola, and an appearance in a video for Chime for Change where she makes an impassioned plea for a better future for young girls that has some of her admirers starting to well up. To these people, Beyonce is far more than a singer – she is a woman of otherworldly perfection. The fact that she occasionally sings amazing songs is mere icing on the cake.

This may seem dismissive of her considerable musical talent, but actually, you’ve got to admit that thinking of Beyonce as more than a singer is only accurate. When she emerges on a platform from beneath the stage straight in to ‘Run The World (Girls)’, nobody’s first thought is “I love this song!”. It’s a shared gasp of recognition, a communal wonder that Beyonce – Beyonce! – is even here. Her stardom is so huge it takes a while to focus on her music, which is fine given how much else there is to distract you – the costume changes, the dancers, the floating video screens, Beyonce’s insistence on accompanying everything she does with a vigorous shake of her barely concealed derriere. It’s impossible not to be entertained, enthralled even, despite the fact that the music at times seems entirely secondary to whatever else it is that’s going on.

Beyonce does ballads and bangers like no other. Her vocal prowess on the former and show-womanship on the latter are unbeatable, but her more mid tempo numbers would be close to forgettable if they weren’t adorned with pyrotechnics, the perpetual choreographed chucking of one another in the air and elongated video interludes that thread the whole Mrs Carter Show World Tour together like a musical production, but only in a West End theatre kind of sense. Even pointing out slight chinks in her armour seems harsh given her talents, but the crowd around me seem to agree – even if they’d never utter the words – that there are a handful too many of these moments, instances where many of us think to ourselves, ‘yes, I will have a little sit down’. In such times, nobody’s bored, as the visual spectacle is still overwhelming. But neither are they dancing.

OK, when Beyonce’s at her worst, she’s still pretty good. But when she’s at her best? Holy shit. I’ve heard the ‘this side make some noise/that side make some noise’ thing countless times, but the response has never hurt my ears before. I’ve seen The Flaming Lips on enough occasions to know what a glitter cannon does, but never have one’s contents filled my entire field of vision. I’ve just never seen a woman turn a crowd on, in every sense, to quite these levels. Through a cheesy but yeah, kinda empowering ‘Halo’ and a brutally forceful ‘Why Don’t You Love Me?’, we’re out of our seats, and then in other people’s seats, and then we’ve all completely lost our seats. And by the time she flies – she actually flies – from one end of the venue to the other for a remarkable ‘Irreplaceable’, gliding back over to the front for a double whammy of ‘Crazy In Love’ and ‘Single Ladies’ so powerful it borders on transcendence, I’m signing myself up to the religion of people who think this woman can do anything.

For me, it’s Beyonce’s best music that makes all the other stuff about her so notable, not vice versa. Few other pop artists ever reach these heights, and they don’t even have to deal with the hassle of having to be bloody Beyonce every day. Michael Jackson did, sure, and at its best this show is probably most reminiscent of the stunning footage I’ve seen of him touring Bad. But look at how that turned out. Beyonce, thankfully, isn’t showing any signs of similar impending insanity. She still seems curiously humble, even when she’s literally looking down on us, suspended in the sky. For all her myriad talents, being able to seem like one of us at the same time as being not of this world is surely amongst her greatest achievements.

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