News of and ticket sales for “An Intimate Night with Beyonce” over four nights at Roseland Ballroom descended on New York faster than the tropical storm that drenched thousands of fans waiting outside to see her final show on Friday night. In advance (or in lieu of) a full tour, Bey transformed the relatively small event space into a big band hall featuring 20 musicians to showcase her new album for a TV special. Madonna did this too a few years back when she launched Hard Candy, remember? So scoring tickets five days before the concert made me feel very fortunate.
The show was organized in two parts. The first half a retrospective of her career leading up to the new record and the second every song on 4. She entered the stage to a frenzy of screams and a sea of cameras. Sir Paul McCartney was in the VIP section looking on. With three back-up dancers in enormous Afros, Beyonce familiarly recalled the beginning of her career at age 9 and sampled the song that inspired her most, Michael Jackson’s “I Wanna Be Where You Are.” Her stories of dashed hopes at Star Search, exhilarating record deal signings and subsequent droppings, and other “painful” struggles of making it as a teen girl group evoked no sympathy from me, but it was fun to hear her perform some of the hits that propelled the juggernaut that was Destiny’s Child into orbit. Samples of “No, No, No,” “Bills, Bills, Bills” and “Say My Name” represented the songs that got them to household name recognition status, and “Independent Woman,” “Bootylicious” and “Survivor” the songs that shot them into super-stardom. I’ve heard these stories before, and I knew she was taping these shows for a TV special, so I decided to give her a pass.
Representing her three solo albums and acting career, she drew the four most iconic songs from her catalog: “Crazy in Love” from Dangerously in Love, “Irreplaceable” from B’day, “Dreamgirls” from Dreamgirls and “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” from her last album, I Am… Sasha Fierce. For these songs, she performed ths songs in their entirety and pulled out all the stops. “Crazy in Love” started slow and soulfully, then evolved into a pelvic thrust-dance explosion. “Single Ladies” still pleases. Those moves and her voice cannot be beat. My only gripe was that I would have preferred her actually sing “Irreplaceable” rather lead the great sing-a-long that ensued.
After a five minute interlude, Beyonce returned to the stage to perform every song off her new album, 4. She even performed each track in order, starting with “1+1.” There’s been a lot of talk about how her new album doesn’t contain a massive hit like “Crazy in Love” or “Single Ladies.” I agree, but I also appreciate that Beyonce records music that reflects where she is in her life. Today she’s 29 years old and maturing. She’s a wife and successful business woman. Her music reflects that and hearing her perform these songs live, it just proves that she knows exactly what she’s doing.
Crooning “1+1” on top of a piano before tearing it up with mad vocals at the end are evidence of how personal these songs are to her. “I Care” and “I Miss You” followed and then she inspired another sing-along as she performed the second single from the album, “Best Thing I Never Had.” She then moved into the mid-tempo section of her album with “Party” with her voluptuous team of back-up singers front and center. “Rather Die Young” and my favorite song of the night, “Love on Top” were up next. Toward the end of “Love on Top” she stepped up the note on the chorus four times. She sang her face off. Incredible. The show continued to build momentum as she reached her up-tempo songs, “Countdown” and my favorite track off the record, “End of Time.” Coupled with the brilliant lighting, this song was the highlight for me. “Run the World (Girls)” ended her set yet she returned for one encore, the torch song “I Was Here,” which she dedicated to her fans. Bey, you’re my new Tina Turner. Keep on rolling, girl.