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 in those impeccable heels, and mimic those of her dancers, who during some numbers sway and frolic like ballerinas and during others jive and juke as though they're in a hole-in-the-wall club on a Friday night.
So on 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. I had seen a near-identical show inside New Orleans's Superdome, and watching her trim some of that down to a neat two-hour set, it 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. "Party" was played off by the chords of Michael Jackson's "Human Nature."
In a month in which the world has been reintroduced to the banality of R. Kelly, a live Beyoncé 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 their inhabitants' cleavage, and her coos and ahhs during power ballads like "1+1" invite a number of partners to re-evaluate their late-night plans.
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 female fans had. "Irreplaceable" might sound silly, a neck-snapping trumpet of separation and independence, but there's more weight to it when you see at least 15,000 women echo every word as if they'd been there.
Same for "Survivor," one of those spit-in-the-face tracks from the Destiny's Child era, where it truly appeared her mythical "BeyHive" had become one and was waiting on a cue from its Queen to attack something: personal demons, strife, bill collectors, whatever.
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 any more, in addition to Bey's goofy, free-flowing vibe. As professional as she is, over this latest trek of the Mrs. Carter Show, her humor has definitely won folks over (via selfie-bombing and more), even when she's rapping like Future Vandross during "Diva."
And I'd be remiss if I didn't say "Love on Top" is still the happiest song in the history of mankind.
Christmas Time Is Here
Local musicians recall fond memories of the Peanuts holiday soundtracks.
Jesse Sendejas Jr.
When my kids were young, I didn't force them to play T-ball or try dance class or even go to school regularly. One thing I insisted on was that they sit with me at holiday time to watch the Peanuts specials I eagerly awaited each year as a boy.
I know they found Charlie Brown's blockheadedness boring. My daughter asked why she had to miss Lizzie McGuire to watch Snoopy when we had the Peanuts specials on video and could watch them any time we wanted.
"Because this is how you watch TV," I explained. "You wait all year for a special you've seen 20 times before to run again and watch it a 21st time."
At the time I didn't know it, but those specials helped develop my appreciation for music. Scored by the late jazz great Vince Guaraldi, the music is now as iconic as the Peanuts characters themselves. But don't take my word for it. I asked some of our town's musicians to weigh in on a handful of Guaraldi's best holiday-themed selections.
Jazz guitarist/producer Chris Cortez, Justin Nava from thelastplaceyoulook, pianist/composer Paul English and the merry gentlemen of Blaggards took the time to share their thoughts. Appropriately enough, many have holiday shows approaching.
"Christmas Time Is Here"
Chris Cortez recently teamed with the always-busy vocalist Tianna Hall for Noel, a collection of holiday favorites released on Blue Bamboo Music. He said they'll be performing music from the album at Sambuca on December 30.
"Christmas Time Is Here" is featured as a medley and appears by way of a neat interlude of sorts on "A Child Is Born" as arranged by Mark Piszczek. Cortez noticed the tempos were similar when performed as jazz waltzes, so one sort of melds into the other on the track, which begins with his acoustic guitar and Hall's vocal before giving way to full orchestration.