Beyoncé at Toyota Center, 12/10/2013
Photos by Robin Harper/Inivision-Parkwood Entertainment
Beyoncé Toyota Center December 10, 2013
The easy way to go about saying you went to a Beyoncé show is to gawk at the way people surrounding you interact with one another, how they smile, wave, twist and contort to every move the 32-year-old Houstonian performs onstage. How they attempt to mirror every strut she makes on impeccable heels, and dancers who at times can sway and frolic like ballerinas and others jut and juke like a hole-in-the-wall club on a Friday night.
So Tuesday night, back inside the Church of Carter (husband Jay Z takes the pulpit for his own sermon in less then ten days), Mrs. Carter gave Houston its second installment of the Mrs. Carter Show this year, albeit with a bit more flare and extensions than previously. Having seen a near-identical show inside New Orleans's Superdome, watching her trim some of that down to a neat two-hour set seemed like she wasn't going for a knockout but would instead settle for a technical masterpiece.
There was no flourishing rendition of "Grown Woman", no anthem-esque demand of loyalty via "Bow Down." Instead she toyed with octaves and call-and-response with "Why Don't You Love Me," a teasing ploy with "Naughty Girl" that felt more like a strip show inside a burlesque parlor than a solo effort and "Party" getting played off by the chords of Michael Jackson's "Human Nature."
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In a week where the world is once more reintroducing itself to the banality of R. Kelly, a Beyoncé live show reinforces sexuality and freedom above anything else. Her dancers are built the way Time magazine viewed women in the 1950s, buxom and glamorous, her costumes tug on cleavage and her coos and ahhs during power ballads like "1+1" on a piano invite a number of partners to re-evaluate their late night plans.
On this night, watching her belt out what seemed like every dominant radio song of my high school and college life, I felt as if I'd been pushing with Beyoncé in the same way plenty of her millions of female fans had. "Irreplaceable" might sound silly, a neck-snapping trumpet of separation and independence but when you see at least 15,000 women echo every word as if they'd been there -- there's more weight to it.
Same for "Survivor," one of those spit-in-the-face tracks from the Destiny's Child era, where it truly believed that mythical BeyHive had become one and was waiting on cue from their Queen to attack something: personal demons, strife, bill collectors, whatever.
Review continues on the next page.
Despite this, every Beyoncé show does have one wrinkle to it that makes it a bit different from every other. Tonight it was letting a little girl sing "Love on Top" until she couldn't no more and Bey being goofy and free-flowing. As much of a vaunted professional as she is, via selfie-bombing and more over this latest trek of the Mrs. Carter Show, her humor has definitely won folks over, even when she's rapping like Future Vandross during a "Clique"-inspired version of "Diva."
I'd be remiss if I didn't say "Love on Top" is still the happiest song in the history of mankind.
So, How About The Opener? Luke James, the New Orleans boy turned lucky tour-opening boy-king, came out swinging in his opening set filled with few lows during drips of "I.O.U." and his Grammy-nominated "I Want You." By the time he removed his shirt and stepped into the leather pants and sex appeal of Jodeci, he had the women in his palm.
The Crowd: From kids to, well...grown women. There may have been two generations of Beyoncé fans in attendance and by my count, a good 80 percent of the women damn near tried to seduce every single man in the venue by their attire alone.
Overheard in the Crowd: "Hurry up, Beyoncé...I bet she's backstage drinking tea with Slim Thug and Young Jeezy."
Random Notebook Dump: Behind me and my date for the evening (a huge Beyoncé fan), a little girl sang to Luke James (which was awkward) and proceeded to go nuts during a DJ intermission. She got so hype that 15,000 people started cheering her on. Her reward? A spot on the floor right in front of Beyoncé. Kids, man.
BEYONCE SET LIST
Run the World (Girls) End of the World Get Me Bodied Baby Boy Diva Naughty Girl Party Freakum Dress Why Don't You Love Me 1+1 Irreplaceable Love On Top Survivor Countdown Crazy In Love Single Ladies I Will Always Love You Halo
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