Lemme downgrade ya, Beyoncé

by Ryan Snyder

Lemme downgrade ya, Beyoncé

Tired moves, self promoTion obscure beyonce’s new Tour

There are only a couple of reasons why an unabashed non-fan of Beyoncé Knowles would be inclined to attend one of her live performances. First, there’s the glimmer of hope that her even more famous beau Jay-Z would make an appearance, yet Hova was unfortunately nowhere to be found at the pop diva’s Saturday night performance at the Greensboro Coliseum. Secondly, and maybe even more significantly, there’s always the possibility of a wardrobe malfunction. Yet, despite Beyoncé’s best efforts to jiggle her way out of the various outfits that adorned her throughout the show, many were left wanting in that regard as well.

Even in the eyes and ears of a person who would never catch themselves listening to a single tune by the pop queen of the iPod age, there’s something to be said for her ability to utterly captivate a live audience. She possesses the kind of performance savoir faire reserved for only the entertainment elite and pipes befitting her self-embraced diva status, Her current tour plays like a career retrospective, with songs from her Destiny’s Child days to the current I AM…Sasha Fierce era, with what seems like several mini-shows cobbled together into one larger, grandiose exhibition. When taken into such a context, it’s clear that Beyoncé has gravitated away from the sultry pop for which she made her name in favor of simply beating her fans over the head with not-so-subtle promotional messages, both for herself and whatever commercial interest she happens to be championing at the time.

After a garish performance by throwaway R&B girl group Richgirl, the mostlyfilled coliseum passed the 45-minute intermission with the collected works of the justdeceased King of Pop Michael Jackson. Earsplitting applause and cheers emanated from the majority audience of trendy, urban females and their occasionally reluctant dates when one rather pasty white guy got up to raise him some roof when the opening notes of “Billie Jean” hit. Thirty minutes behind schedule, the house lights dropped and the curtain parted to reveal Beyoncé, draped in white light and smoke, striking a Jesus Christ pose before breaking into “Crazy In Love.” A stage-length LCD screen loomed over Beyoncé and her entire band, a curious arrangement of two drummers, two keyboardists, two saxophones, auxiliary percussion, guitar and bass — all female and all highly accomplished, if grossly underutilized. While her singing was often sincere and straightforward during the intimate moments she directly sang to the crowd, there were many times when it was painfully obvious that the audience was listening to vocal tracks through the house PA. During “Get Me Bodied,” the vigorous neck rolls that coincided with the songs most vocally explosive portions were a dead giveaway. If that didn’t tip her hand, then seeing her exit the stage for scheduled costume changes without a break in the vocals should have. After a rather vigorous opening act, despite the herky-jerky, dated dance moves by Beyoncé and her crew, she reemerged with a white hoodie and cape to a silkscreen of rolling waves to kick off what would be an overly long, somewhat tedious barrage of snoozy balladry. The segment spiraled to an appreciative end with the questionable inclusion of “Ave Maria,” but even more problematic was her fumbling of the words to Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know.”

It was about this time that the performance portion of Beyoncé’s obsession with her own visage peaked, as nearly every song was preceded with video interludes of close-ups from various angles. The songs “Diva” and “Ego” arrived to provide the perfect soundtrack, though there was a fortuitous instrumental break for the patient, as the bassist gave spot on interpretations of Jackson’s “Billie Jean” and the White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army,” the latter of which created a few looks of noticeable puzzlement among the audience. The show wouldn’t have been complete without a thinly-veiled sales pitch consisting of her notoriously annoying DirecTV jingle “Upgrade U” and her upcoming foray into crass commercialism, “Video Phone.” She wasn’t prepared to honor Michael in full, however, and though the highest seat in pop royalty may now sit vacant, it’s just as likely that “Beyoncé Knowles here” may soon become the lead for your Saturday-morning infomercial after this weekend’s other death.