Before I begin my review of this concert, let me say a few things.
For the record, I am not a fan of Beyoncé. I despise divas. I cannot stand the genre called R&B. I do no like dance music in just about any form. I do not even know any of Beyoncé's songs.
I was pretty sure I had heard one or two from Destiny’s Child, but if hard pressed before the concert I couldn’t name them. My sister let me borrow a Beyoncé CD the other day, and I threw it out less than half way through. I simply couldn’t tolerate it.
And I had a spectacular time at this concert.
The question could be asked – "Why did you go to the concert if you don’t like her music?" And it would be a fair question indeed. The truth is that if was I living in any other part of the world I would not have seen her. She could have been giving away free tickets in the States and I would have likely passed.
Yet for reasons I’m not entirely sure of, I was excited about seeing her in Shanghai. Perhaps this was because so few musical acts that I know pass by this part of the world. Or maybe I liked the idea of seeing gaggles Chinese kids dancing to an American pop idol – kind of an East meets West thing. Or maybe I was just hankering for a little booty shaking.
The show was a right good jaunt away from us. We boarded two cabs, two subway trains, and did a pretty fair amount of walking to make it to the concert hall. All of this in the middle of rush hour. And if you haven’t tried to keep up with five of your friends while zipping through a 100,000 Asians all bustling to get to their own destinations, well you just haven’t lived.
We arrived. We scarfed down fast food. We found our nosebleed seats.
Not all of the seats were filled and there was much discussion of leaving the nosebleeds for more interesting seats one flight down. We all agreed to move, more or less, and when the lights went down there was a mass exodus. Unfortunately the ladies (which included my wife) got separated from the men and there was much anger (on the part of the ladies) and apologetic text messaging (from us men.) Eventually things settled down and we were able to enjoy the show.
What a show it was! She’s calling this tour the "Beyoncé Experience," and it was certainly that – quite an experience. Going into the show I half expected it to be lame. I figured Beyonce would mostly likely lip synch her way through the performance, and that most of the music would come from a DAT tape. Certainly I expected a fun light show and lots of scantily clad dancers along with flashy set pieces and costumes. But musically I was looking for a let down.
I was more than pleasantly surprised. Beyoncé sang live and with a full, beautiful voice. While there were a few moments that were obviously being played off of a tape, almost all of the music came live from her backing band.
Her very big, very good backing band.
There was guitar and bass, plus at least four horns, two keyboards, a bevy of back up singers and three drum sets (that’s more than the Grateful Dead!) All of which created a very full, and boisterous sound.
This was a party. A musical celebration. I came in expecting a Diva boring me with her “music” and got a rollicking good time instead.
I don’t mean to say this was a low frills musical experience. Beyoncé may have rocked, but she didn’t forget the extravagance either. The light show was enormous and gorgeous and immaculately crafted. There was a bevy of dancers and at least four costume changes. There were several big set pieces all executed with a flair for the theatrical. The show even ended with a credit roll on the multiple screens set throughout the hall.
There were also a few diva moments. During the handful of ballads Beyoncé brought the big voice and attempted a few Mariah Careys. While most of the audience ate this up, it was all a bit much for me and I found myself shifting in my chair and looking around bored. That’s just not my sort of thing and I was always ready for it to move on before it ever did.
Mostly though, she kept the diva in check and kept the party going. I’ve had better concert experiences but never have I been to such an enormously boisterous production.
Will I be buying the next Beyoncé CD? Will I be downloading all of her old songs? Do I now consider myself a fan? The answer to all of these questions is decidedly no. But I’ve got to say the lady knows how to bring it and make even a naysayer like me have one crazy good time.