Pictured above: Beyonce performing 'Partition'
Some critics said that Beyonce’s performance at the Brit Awards on Wednesday night was boring.
It’s true that, next to her frequently naked rivals, Beyonce calmly belting out a sultry ballad in a floor-length sequinned gown seems positively chaste.
It’s a strange pop landscape we live in, where a woman who invented the word “bootylicious” basically looks like a nun compared to some of her contemporaries.
But as she showed on stage at the Glasgow SSE Hydro, Beyonce’s idea of megastar sex appeal is dry ice, silhouettes and suggestion, not twerking dwarves.
Even the name of her tour – The Mrs Carter Show, a nod to her husband and collaborator Jay-Z – has a certain innocence about it (she was also accused of being a bad feminist when she first announced it).
But Beyonce doesn’t care; she’s in love. Drunk In Love, in fact, which is the name of one of the best tracks on the "visual album" she casually slipped out in December, in between soirees with the Obamas.
Performed on stage for this first night of her European tour, the song, with its suggestive lyrics about what she and her husband get up to on the kitchen floor after too many drinks, was just as intoxicating.
Not that you would know to look at her, but Beyonce was apparently up all night before this show – but while she might occasionally enjoy getting “filthy when that liquor get into me”, in this case she was simply rehearsing.
It was a big night for her, the first time she had performed many of her new tracks, but she remained strikingly composed and confident throughout.
It’s not as if she needs to worry about her fans popping off for a loo break during the new songs – with the album selling 1 million copies within a week of release, they already know every word.
On stage, Beyonce barely paused for breath as she slickly segued from moody, atmospheric numbers like XO and Haunted to booty-shaking bangers like Flawless, which starts with a quote about feminism from Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and turns into a huge, powerful urban pop hit.
Along with the twee, catchy Pretty Hurts, the lyrics of Flawless touch on the pressure young girls are under to look as amazing as, well, Beyonce.
See, she has a social conscience as well as talent, charisma, a staggering work ethic and, yep, awe-inspiring thighs.
Pictured above: Beyonce performing '***Flawless'
Pictured above: Beyonce performing '***Flawless'
From the first minute something unique is promised, with a procession of dancers emerging from the stage for an extended and elaborately balletic routine before a giant LED screen, the tone mysterious and teasing as the screen eventually raises to reveal Knowles floating on slowly in a neck-to-toe ballgown. The music is something else, a blend of her familiar deep-lunged torch singing with a thundering bass containing a heavy dubstep influence amidst the opening Haunted, segueing through an unearthly,Invasion of the Body Snatchers screech into Drunk in Love. “Y'all gonna sing along with me, right?” she commands, legs akimbo on a chair in a sequinned catsuit, lost in a kaleidoscope of lights on the screens behind her.
The darker electro influence of this winter's latest, eponymous album is embraced fully in the early stages of the show, from the reappropriation of If I Were a Boy - bass crackling like thunder, the strings and some lyrics of the Verve's Bittersweet Symphonyblended in, and a chugging guitar riff buried somewhere in the mix - to the raw tumult of Bow Down, prefaced by a big-budget, grand guignol film clip portraying Knowles as a vampire queen in white face paint. Flawless was an exercise in sheer sass and retro Bronx street chic accessorised with leather shorts, braziers burning onstage as her crew danced and she spat out that commanding “I woke up like this” chorus line, an “I am what I am” for the 2010s.
Pages could be written outside the bounds of reportage about her decision to use Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's TED speech on feminism (beginning “we teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller...” and spelled out here in rousing, ten foot tall words) and of where her own work and image fits the sentiment of such a statement, but there's no question Knowles is a model of power and control throughout, even when her muse extends to writhing atop a grand piano or grinding through the disco-soaked majesty of Blow.The call and response demands for more love from her crowd during Why Don't You Love Me were particularly mesmerising in their assurance, although perhaps the most telling story of Knowles' confidence in her music and performance came with shortened versions of the formation-dancing Crazy in Love andSingle Ladies (Put a Ring on It) which once blew away Glastonbury and a watching nation. In her career as with her live show, she keeps on moving on and you can't take your eyes or ears off her.
HauntedHeavensource i, ii, iii