Queen Beyonce has famously exacting standards.
Photographers are banned from her shows, preventing any unflattering shots. She mimed at Barack Obama’s inauguration, all the better to avoid the risk of a bad note. Her backstage requirements are reported in every paper to include helicopter transport and drinking water served at an exact temperature.
Her Mrs. Carter World Tour is currently playing at London’s O2 Arena, moves across Europe and heads to the U.S. in June. It delivers the requisite hits and costume changes, sexy dancers and palatial staging with finesse.
Beyonce is graciously imperial, no matter whether bumping and grinding or powering out a mega-ballad.
The star strides around the stage with a confidence to match the upbeat sentiment of “Run the World (Girls).”
A white leotard encrusted with a Swarovski store’s worth of sparkling crystal emphasizes her imperious wiggle. A black equivalent by Givenchy is worn for “If I Were a Boy.”
“Baby Boy” is one of many songs that push up the energy with hip hop and ragga. Beyonce sings “Why Don’t You Love Me” at full soul throttle. For “1+1” she is in a shimmering purple catsuit. The pop queen writhes on a grand piano for the chorus “make love to me.”
“Crazy In Love” and “Single Ladies” provide moments of unadulterated pop.
The 11-piece all-female band isn’t afraid to rock out. Beyonce’s voice is flawless, funky, smooth and powerful as required. An acapella version of “I Will Always Love You” is spectacular for being so unfussy.
There are a few missteps. The show sags in the middle when too many dance beats are rocked up. “Grown Woman,” mixing kalimbas and afrobeats, is an anti-climactic last song.
The biggest problem, though, is the apparent lack of problems. “Flaws And All” sees Beyonce sing about her imperfections. Utterly unconvincing, it emphasizes the absence of human vulnerability amid the polished pizzazz.
The Mrs. Carter World Tour will leave you dazzled, not stirred: a little imperfection would have gone a long way.
For information, click on http://www.beyonce.com.
What the Stars Mean: **** Excellent *** Good ** Average * Poor (No stars) Worthless
(Robert Heller is a music critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)
Muse highlights include: Richard Vines on food, Jason Harper on cars, Rich Jaroslovsky on technology and Amanda Gordon’s Scene Last Night.