Beyonce brought her song and dance party (aka The Mrs. Carter Tour) to the 2013 Budweiser Made in America Festival, headlining the opening night at the Rocky Stage in Philadelphia and delighting the hardcore fans that withstood the sweltering summer sun, waiting hours for the arrival of Queen Bey.
There are very few female performers like Beyonce these days. By that I mean performers that actually sing live and can dance at the same time. Her show is a Production with a capital 'P'. An outstanding female band and bevy of female (and two male) dancers supported Beyonce in her quest to spread her constant message of female empowerment. Her world domination is already a given. At times, however, the imagery used by Beyonce contradicted her female empowerment message and it seemed some of the artistic choices that were made were more concerned with validating Beyonce as an icon, instead of advancing her as an artist.
Starting with a timpani roll and a video showing a heavily powdered Beyonce leading an ivory French court, the concert kicked off with Beyonce in an ivory-laced leotard (there isn't a leotard that Beyonce hasn't bedazzled the hell out of) singing "Run the World (Girls)" and leading her rhythm nation of dancers through an abbreviated version of the song. Unfortunately, the majority of the songs that Beyonce performed, including "Diva," "Baby Boy" and "Get Me Bodied," were shortened versions of the originals, turning the concert into a 90-minute medley.
Video interludes gave Beyonce an opportunity for several costume changes. She went from one bedazzled leotard to another, although she did manage to progress to a sequined catsuit, a green leopard-print shag dress (a la Tina Turner) and eventually she wore pants (pleated white pants, no less!) over a leotard to perform "Halo." But the oddest video interlude featured Beyonce in a Rosie the Riveter-type newsreel. Except this Rosie was fixing planes wearing a leotard and heels.
The most unusual wardrobe choice was saved for her back-up dancers during "Naughty Girl." Using Donna Summer's "Love to Love You Baby" as an intro, Beyonce's dancers, portrayed as exotic dancers for this particular number, wore sequined leotards designed to show their female form in great detail. I'm not sure how empowering it is, or what message you're trying to send, by having your female dancers perform on stage wearing what amounts to a sequined breast and nipple design.
Saving the fun stuff for the end, Beyonce performed "Love on Top," (which one could picture New Edition doing back in 1985), "Crazy in Love" (an abbreviated version) and "Single Ladies" which incorporated the theme from "The Jeffersons"(I guess she saw Dave Grohl's take on the song a few months ago), ending the dance party with several confetti cannons blasting gold confetti over the crowd.
As a performer, Beyonce is one of the few who is carrying on the tradition of being a true entertainer on stage. But trying to force or create iconic moments is unnecessary. The best iconic moments in any artist's career happen organically (Diana Ross didn't plan for that thunderstorm in Central Park. Michael Jackson rehearsed a few dance steps in his kitchen and borrowed a sequined jacket from his Mom's closet the night before performing on Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever). In one of the video montages towards the end of the concert, Beyonce stated "I want to leave my footprints in the sands of time." At this point, it's more like stiletto prints. But if Beyonce is willing to open herself more as an artist and get past the leotards, the possibilities are endless. Because right now the talent is there, but the message is muddled.
For more information on the 2013 Budweiser Made in America Festival, click here.
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