Beyoncé: Live Last Night

beyonceBeyoncé works it, owns it. (Marcus Yam/The Washington Post)

Live Last Night

Sasha Fierce had a tough act to follow at the Verizon Center last night: her own. 'Twas mere months ago she came to serenade the new President, albeit in her more modest alter ego of plain old platinum-selling Beyoncé Knowles from Houston. The tune, to the public chagrin of prior owner Etta James, was "At Last."

The preeminent pop diva of the iPod Age, singing that song to the nation's first black Chief Executive and First Lady -- how do you follow that?

A: You can repeat it -- First Lady Michelle Obama and daughters Sasha and Malia were in the house for at least part of last night's show and the daughters received a shout out during the introduction to "Single Ladies" -- but you can't beat it. So just double down on the glitz, and the hitz.

Done and done. Bombastic, bizarre, and supremely entertaining despite a few sluggish segues, Beyoncé's "I Am" tour surveys her career from Destiny's Childhood through contemporary Sasha-dom in Vegas-ready style. The thing actually plays like four or five distinct, energetic mini-concerts networked together by a lot of state-of-the-art ... stuff.

(Read the rest of the review after the jump.)

beyonce(Marcus Yam/The Washington Post)

The first of these, an opening salvo of vintage hip-shakers ("'Crazy in Love," "Freakum Dress") gave way to an extended set from last year's bisected opus, "I Am ... Sasha Fierce." As on the album, the ballads preceded the club jams. One of the latter, "Radio," found Beyoncé's mechanically precise steps shadowed by dancers made up like Oscar stauettes in DJ headphones. Weird. A little creepy, even. But cool.

The groove was provided by a ladies-only band, when it wasn't provided by Memorex. We're not crying fakery; merely pointing out that a lot -- too much -- of the 125-minute spectacular spectacular consisted of recorded audio and video. Some of it was cute, some of it was strange, all of it was conspicuously filling time during the frequent, long, Fierce-less passages

On a related note, she had what seemed like more costume changes than all the Batman movies put together, not to mention funkier body armor. Beyoncé performed one section caparisoned in a butterfly bustier over a leopard-print leotard.

Well. You were expecting sweatpants and Joni Mitchell covers, perhaps?

Actually, there was a cover of Alanis Morisette's "You Oughta Know," the hell-hath-no-fury number that was as inevitable in 1995 as "Single Ladies" is now. Beyonce wrapped it within her own "If I Were a Boy." Later, she sang some of Sarah McLachlan's "Angel" during a detour from "Ave Maria."

Despite these tributes to two of the prior decade's chart-topping Independent Women, Queen B remains a more guarded and enigmatic performer than either of them. Her show seemed designed to feel like a tell-all, even featuring video of a five-year-old Beyoncé rehearsing her moves.

But its overall effect was to protect, even enhance, her mystery. A single, radiant smile during "Irreplaceable" (performed on a B-stage at mid-court) felt more genuine than anything that came before.

For the finale "Halo," the star worked the line at the lip of the stage, coming face-to-face with several fans too busy texting or tweeting or video-phone-ing the moment to seize the royal hand she offered. Maybe they just didn't believe she could exist in unmediated, unplugged reality. So it seemed appropriate that she left us by descending via platform into the depths of the stage, like a jack folding back into its box.

-- By CHRIS KLIMEK

By J. Freedom du Lac |  June 25, 2009; 8:42 AM ET Live Last Night
Previous: Mr. Jonas Goes to Washington; Beyoncé Gives a Shout Out to the Obama Girls; Punched Perez Sues | Next: St. Vincent vs. Wilco: Live Last Night, On TV

Comments

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"Weird. A little creepy, even. But cool."

Sounds like the modern pop music scene.

Posted by: EricS2 | June 25, 2009 1:56 PM

This is beyonme caring.

Posted by: whocares666 | June 25, 2009 2:26 PM

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