. (eigengrau) wrote in ohnotheydidnt,

Beyoncé: still a fierce performer, still no personality; only delivers "surface thrills"

Third song in, Beyoncé flexed a biceps, then poked at the slightly jiggling flesh beneath it with the wrinkled nose of someone standing downwind from a pig farm.

“I’m a host of imperfections,” she sang, the little patch of loose skin on her underarm serving as her example of as much.

Um, yeah.

Quick, everyone, gouge your eyes out with your cocktail straws lest you should catch another glimpse of this unsightly she-beast!

Safe to say, when assessing her looks, Beyoncé grades on the kind of scale that would render most of us self-esteem flunkies, left to pursue GED’s in body image.

The tune in question, “Flaws and All,” was Beyoncé’s way of letting everyone know that she’s just as much of a hot mess as the rest of us because she can be a “train wreck in the morning” and “a bitch in the afternoon.”

It was her way of deflating, if only for a moment, the super woman persona that she’s so carefully cultivated over the past decade, crumbling the wall of perfection that she’s mortared into place brick by brick.

It didn’t work, really.

This is because Beyoncé’s at her best when she’s the hardest to relate with.

To identify with her, or anyone, really, is to dig deeper into who they are.

This is where the difficulties arise with Beyoncé, as she mostly keeps her audience at arm’s length with songs that reflect little of who she is as a person.

It’s better, then, to just enjoy the surface thrills inherent in her music and the audio-visual euphoria of her concerts.

There’s plenty to marvel at, especially when it comes to the latter.

At a sold-out MGM Grand Garden on Saturday, Beyoncé’s movements were as fluid as the sweat she worked up.

At times, the show’s choreography was so awesomely out there, with limbs flying every which way, that she looked like a marionette being worked by an over-caffeinated puppeteer.

Flanked by an eight-piece, all-female band along with three backup singers, Beyoncé and company roared through her hit-heavy catalog, pushing hard against its seams.

They turned brassy R&B kiss off “Why Don’t You Love Me” into a funk fireball, throbbing with wah-wah guitar and seismic bass lines as Beyoncé stomped and howled across the stage like the offspring of James Brown and Pam Grier.

Another tale of comeuppance, “Freakum Dress,” was enflamed by a Metallica-worthy guitar lead as sparks shot from her six-stringer’s Flying V.

Earlier, the band spliced portions of The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony” in with the equally sultry and muscular “If I Were A Boy,” which became far more concussive onstage than its original recorded version would suggest.

Through it all, Beyoncé undulated like a cobra being summoned from a snake charmer’s basket.

She was a kinetic presence, always moving, coming with shoulder-rolling B-girl bravado on “Diva,” volleying with thundering drums on the turbulent “I Care,” singing from her back atop a grand piano while turning “baby” into a four-syllable word on “1 + 1,” debuting a new song, “Grown Woman,” with gut roiling rhythms and Afro Beat flourishes.

The momentum was only interrupted by a series of clunky, pretaped video interludes where Beyoncé played life coach while dressed as a queen.

“Isolation brings revelation,” she intoned at one point.

“We start to peel back the layers,” she continued, even though she’s never done so herself in her music.

“Harnessing the power of your body requires responsibility,” she added later in the show, another sentiment that seemed cribbed from any number of self-help books languishing in the cutout bin.

Beyoncé’s intentions here were noble: to empower her female fan base and make them feel better about themselves.

She wants women to be comfortable with their bodies, no matter their shape or size.

But at the same time, she’s a standard bearer of idealized, largely unattainable feminine beauty, all the while hawking cosmetic products and perfumes.

So what’s the message here?

That’s it’s not OK to objectify women based on their physical attributes — physical attributes that Beyoncé has made a career out of flaunting?

Seems to have worked for her.

And so it was when Beyoncé dispensed with the platitudes that the show reignited.

“A little sweat ain’t never hurt nobody,” she sang, aglow with perspiration, on “Get Me Bodied,” giving breathy, knowing voice to a song about the joys of physical release.

She works the body best, hers and yours.

Tags: beyoncé, review

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