Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Heyyyy Miss Carter!

“Everybody say, Hey Miss Carter.”

Hey Miss Carter!

“Everybody say, Heyyyyyyy Miss Carter.”

Heyyyyyyy Miss Carter!

Woohoo! Here I am! Over here! To the left of the stage. (Your right.) Not a million miles away, but it feels like maybe half a mile.

Too far away to get noticed, that’s for sure. But by this point in the show, you should have realised that it’s not about you. You didn’t come here for her to see you. You came to see her. Beyoncé Carter (née Knowles).

(And yes, you heard right. That was Miss Carter. It’s a southern thing, y’all.)

And even if you can’t see her very well from that distance, you can feel her. She has a global presence so it’s easy to fill a space like the O2. There’s no danger of the atmosphere thinning, no matter what altitude your seat’s at. The audience go so mental for this lady, they were cheering at the ad for her new perfume that flashed on the screens during the pre-show interval. They cheered for her Pepsi Max ad. They cheered – and by cheered I mean roared, every time – for her short promo for her Beygood campaign. Basically any reminder that she would be here some time soon.

So you can imagine the volume mustered by the crowd when she actually turned up. I swear she could’ve stood on stage and done nothing and the whole place would have gone wild. Indeed, she did just that at one point. Waiting, it seemed, for the crowd to make sufficient noise. And they did.

What a tease.

A great moment. A pause in which you fully appreciate the extent to which she commands an arena with a simple pose, a look. It’s as effective an illustration as when she conducts an arena full of people in singing an entire verse and chorus of Irreplaceable. Probably more effective, because the understatement speaks volumes. It’s a role she plays, this alter ego of hers – Sasha Fierce – and she plays it spectacularly.

Of course, keeping folks waiting is the privilege of a diva. It works brilliantly when she’s on stage. Not so much when we’re actually waiting for the show to start and to be fair, like Shakira before her, she takes her own sweet time to kick things off. Similar to that show, we had a (poor) support act on for half an hour followed by a lengthy delay before the main event. Sheesh, I don’t know why you ladies take so long to get ready.

Okay, okay, I was only joking. You know you’re totally worth the wait in gold.

While we had some mediocre (I’m being kind) gurl band warming us up for Shakira, we had some Dee-Jay for this show. Frankly, I’d never heard of him and if I pay to see live music that doesn’t mean watching someone queuing up records on his deck and occasionally stepping out to wave his arms in the air. A large part of the crowd appeared to enjoy his act, but for me it just made the wait longer.

To be fair, I’d struggle to think of anyone who could do the occasion justice. I’d read that it was supposed to be X Factor’s Screwbo supporting, but that would have been an odd match-up. And anyone would be in danger of seeming like a drone compared to Queen B.

Anyway, this minor disappointment was promptly blown out of the water once the main show launched. Beyoncé’s Countdown followed later in the set, but it was definitely blast-off from 9pm.

A spicy mix, as you’d expect, of back catalogue and standout numbers from her latest ‘visual album’. And that is pretty much the show she gives – not literally translating all those videos to stage, but she’s so abundantly a performance artist, shaking up a cocktail of bootyful dance routines and big pyrotechnics and a lot of bling lighting displays. With (in part, I’m sure, to cover for those crucial costume changes) linking video installations. You get the impression everything is planned meticulously. Most of all, you’re just impressed.

There’s not really a screen large enough to convey the scale. But that said, I am hoping there’ll be a DVD I can pick up as a souvenir.

On occasions the band – the Suga Mamas – disappears behind a curtain to make way for the displays, left to play their hearts out behind there, unseen. They’re a vital element, underpinning the whole experience – that’s them you can feel pumping around your veins alongside the adrenalin – but like the dancers and the fireworks and the raining glitter and all the rest they’re just part of the system. Planetary bodies orbiting the central star.

Of course most astronomical stars have the decency to stay relatively still. Beyoncé manages a few spells which could almost be described as static, if only because of the electricity. And there are quieter songs, like the wonderful 1+1 where she confines her movements to some gentler writhing around on top of a piano.

The energy is incredible. And even if the dancing is often of the sort some husbands go to see at clubs, she’s elevated it to an acceptable mainstream artform. And my wife was perfectly happy to let me go see her.

There were two or three notable tracks I missed seeing and hearing, but if she’d done them all she’d probably have been on stage for four hours. Which I wouldn’t have minded, but I gather she was due to do the whole thing again the next night. And the next. And so on. So that might have been unreasonable to expect.

She does a clever job of stringing together a few medleys, which at least give you a flava (as they say) of some favourites.

Individual highlights for me had to be 1+1, the supremely seductive Naughty Girl, the sublime Halo, the irresistibly uplifting XO and Partition, which included a provocative and memorable chair dance.

Alas I have no photos to illustrate these – the images are stored in my head. My camera let me down – I think I would have needed one of those Nokia phones with the 42x zoom.

Yes, it’s true I wish I had been closer. Especially when you’re watching Bey being all flirtatious with those pressing around the front of the stage. Sigh, colour me envious.

But ultimately, half a mile, a quarter, whatever. It’s thousands of miles closer to Beyoncé than I find myself on a daily basis.

And the thing with stars is you can admire them from afar, you can bask in their light, soak up some of their energy and take it home with you.

Shakira warmed us up on a winter night a few years back. Beyoncé poured heaps of of honey n suga on this year’s pancake day.

In the end I was happy enough to be able to say, I Was Here.