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Given that yesterday was the day the world said goodbye to Michael Jackson with a glitzy, arena-sized sendoff, it shouldn't have been surprising to see Beyonce dedicate a song to the late King of Pop at last night's U.S. Airways Center show. And, with emotions running high, it also shouldn't have been surprising when she got a little verklempt at the start of the newly-improvised MJ section of "Halo." Still, seeing the world's reigning diva false-start the chorus to a hit single after a picture of The Gloved One appeared on screen was jarring.
Sure, B is an actress now, putting those of us in the 'Brooke Shields Was Definitely Faking It' camp on high-alert, but it's hard to imagine her flubbing a note on purpose if only because her very own version of Joe Jackson taught her better. What we're left with, then is a pretty intense moment, though a moment I didn't appreciate.
After a day of revisionist history where the television-owning public was fed a version of Michael Jackson's life that seemed to leave out some fairly important details -- more or less understandably, given the purpose of the event -- I was in the mood to worship a top-notch pop star without a recipe for Jesus Juice. Instead, those of us in the half-full but impressively loud downtown arena, had "Halo" forever tied to Michael Jackson.
Not that I want to get too intense about "Halo." It's a stellar song, sure, but the video does manage the dubious feat of simultaneously ripping off Ghost and Coldplay. But, as the peak of an impressive two-hour show that saw the former Destiny's Child star play through most of her hits, it did define the evening in an unfortunate way.
"Michael, I can see your haloooooooo," she sang.
"Unless he really did touch those kids, in which case he's likely totally halo-less and uncomfortably warmmmmm," I thought.
Emerging from two skyscraper-length curtains in a cloud of smoke and a whirl of gold and silver sequins to sing "Crazy In Love," Beyonce stared down the crowd, suggesting she was in Sasha Fierce mode right from the start. Squeezed up in to a bust-enhancing dress that would make the so-called Miracle Bra look more like finding lost keys than parting the Red Sea, she went in to full-on Tina Turner mode right away, shaking her ass in to an endless string of video reflections that may or may not have been influenced by the videography for "River Deep, Mountain High."
From the start, when she used a recording of the song's rap verse from her beau, Jay-Z, B showed she was willing to rely heavily on playback, though her 13-piece all-female backing band did plenty of work.
Through the night she alternated between sexy ("Naughty Girl," "Freakum Dress," "Get Me Bodied") and sweet (a tear-jerking version of "Ave Maria," a stripped-down acoustic take on "Irreplaceable" sung more by the audience than the diva), changing costumes as she changed moods. Counting the on-stage attire along with the outfits pictured in the ubiquitous backing videos, she at turns appeared to be: Xena Warrior Princess, Tina Turner, She-Ra, Etta James, Diana Ross and, ever so briefly, Cleopatra.
A reprisal of the version of James' "At Last" she famously gave at the Obama inauguration reception was one of the night's highlights, as was "Irreplaceable," which came after the singer soared fifty-plus feet above the floor of the arena to land on a center-court mini-stage where she was greeted by raucous fans. A cover of Alanis Morisette's Angry Girl anthem "You Oughta Know" was also a standout, though, amusingly, B decided to omit the f-bomb, instead singing, "...and were you thinking of me when you WHAT?!?"
"Sweet Dreams," which was apparently done totally with playback as the singer was off-stage for the entirety of the song, was a low-light, as were 30-second snippets of a range of Destiny's Child hits, including "Bootylicious," "Buggaboo," "Jumpin' Jumpin'" "No, No, No" and "Survivor." Though Beyonce admirably played "Say My Name" all the way through, the efforts to avoid paying royalties for the other DC hits were obvious and obnoxious, especially given her growing catalog of solo hits. It was totally unforgivable in the first 30-seconds of "Bootylicious," during the "Kelly, are you ready for this? Michelle, are you ready for this?" bit.
All told, a great show. If it had been my memory of "Bills, Bills, Bills" (also Jackson appropriate, right?) marred by a Jackson tribute I'd proclaim it an amazing night. Instead it was "Halo," which is a minor bearable loss.
At least she didn't proclaim Michael "Irreplaceable" -- even if he is.
Last Night: Beyonce and Richgirl at U.S. Airways Arena.
: Slightly pro-Michelle Williams
. Sure, she was a scab to begin with, but I've always believed she helped take the group to new heights.
Random Fact: The two exiled Destiny's Children, LeToya and LaTavia, started another girl group called Anjel which, sadly, made some bad business deals sinking the project before it every really took off. You can find their tracks with a little searching though.
Further Listening: Try this...
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