Concert Review: Beyoncé (LG Arena, Birmingham)

Originally published on So So Gay on 28 February 2014

Now on its sixth leg, Beyoncé’s The Mrs Carter Show World Tour shows no sign of letting up as it approaches nearly a year’s worth of performances.

We caught the first of two nights Beyoncé spent entertaining the Brummie contingent of her UK fan base. Allegedly starting at 7.30pm, it was a good half hour before the only support act appeared – French DJ and producer Monsieur Adi. Surrounded by a rather shambolic looking makeshift ‘booth’, Adi pumped out some tunes for about half an hour that were enjoyable. But it’s difficult for a DJ to have much of a stage presence, even if he did sporadically bounce about the stage like a hyperactive teenager. A strange choice of opening act, particularly as once his set was over the house lights came back on and Mrs Carter didn’t make an appearance for another ½ hour, around 9pm.

It wasn’t the best of starts to the evening. Nevertheless, once a large curtain unfurled onstage, bearing the Beyoncé logo and indicating the imminent appearance of the megastar the crowd were here to see, the atmosphere began to build. Before we knew it, Beyoncé was yelling ‘HELLO BIRMING-HAM!’ and stomping about on stage to her anthem ‘Run the World (Girls)’. From here on out the show was pretty much full-steam ahead.

The staging was fairly straightforward, although used very effectively. Her all-female band were ever present at the rear of the stage, raised up on large cage-like structures, while a huge screen was raised and lowered at various points throughout the show to display appropriate footage to complement a track or create a dynamic colour palette for Beyoncé and her dancers to cavort around. The choreography generally worked better when Beyoncé was joined by just a couple of dancers, as some of the sequences with the full group of dancers didn’t seem quite so tight as they could have been.

This may have had something to do with the fact that the setlist for the tour has been updated more recently to include a number of songs from Beyoncé’s latest self-titled album. Bar a striking performance of ‘Haunted’ and the instantly likeable ‘XO’, the inclusion of the newer material was generally a little less successful and didn’t quite have the punch of the big hits. An undeniable highlight was the 1-2 punch of an acoustic version of ‘Irreplaceable’ and ‘Love On Top’, the latter particularly getting a rapturous reception and singalong. The delivery of ‘Naughty Girl’ also worked perfectly, with subdued, saucy lighting and Beyoncé looking dazzling in a gold sparkly swimsuit.

In fact, all her outfits were stunning; from the shimmering navy ball gown she wore for ‘Haunted’ to the more urban get-up of the jacket, shorts and baseball cap she first came on stage in. The costume changes were all done seamlessly, with minimal interruption to the general flow of the evening’s performances. If she’d rocked up in a bin liner, you feel she would have pulled it off.

Two things are undeniable about Beyoncé. First, the voice – her vocals for the entire evening were sublime and effortless. Combined with some impressive choreography, Beyoncé is one helluva performer. Even when on stage by herself, Beyoncé is a captivating performer and doesn’t need ostentatious set pieces to give a memorable performance. Secondly, there’s her star quality and charm. In those moments she engaged with the audience, Beyoncé’s warmth poured out of her, undoubtedly aided by her Texan drawl and infectious smile. At the end of the concert, some lucky fan was even treated to a serenade of ‘Happy Birthday’ from Mrs Knowles herself, who finished it off with a kiss to the hand.

While her back catalogue is a little patchy in places, one thing is for certain, Beyoncé delivers a superb evening’s live entertainment.

You can purchase tickets for The Mrs Carter Show World Tour 2014 from Ticket Master.

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