Houston loves Beyoncé. Monday, July 15th, 2013 will forever be remembered as the night she owned H-Town, performing a monster 24-song set at a sold-out Toyota Center show. Fans lined up from early in the morning for a show that began far after sunset, all in hopes of basking in Her Highness' glow for an hour or two.
Of course, ever the diva, and wanting to avoid the type of unflattering photos that hit the interwebs after her performance at this year's
Super Bowl Big Game, the media was prohibited from attending the concert for professional photography. As a concert photographer, this decision broke my heart.
But wait, what's this? An "official" Mrs. Carter Show Afterparty invitation in my e-mail inbox?! Could it be true? Would Queen B, and by extension Jay-Z, possibly, just possibly attend an afterparty... at Warehouse Live?!
I mean, during the 2013 NBA All-Star Weekend here in Houston, Bey and Jay made their rounds around town, attending a dinner at RGD+Bar Annie and then making a late appearance at Rich's. RICH'S FOR GOD SAKE! So if there was even a slight chance the superstar would stop in for a few minutes, I had to take it.
Waiting for Beyoncé: Hour One Not so much going on, but it's early. The show at Toyota is still going on, so Warehouse Live is still pretty empty. There are a few couples sitting on the couches of the studio, and musicians setting up onstage.
I spot David DeLaGarza at the keyboards, so I go over to say hello. Singer Jack Freeman is also waiting nearby, looking not very excited. He suspects that even though he was invited to sing tonight, he probably will not due to "time restraints."
There is a red carpet, and it leads into the super VIP green room, complete with a D'ussé Cognac backdrop for photos, a bar (not open) and food (meatballs, wings, and rice). Seems legit. There are people with clipboards and guest lists handing out wristbands and directing traffic.
Oh, and I am severely underdressed for this event. One guy was dressed in a Steve Harvey-esque pimp suit, while a female attendee wore a white bathing suit with a black-wire skirt.
No Beyoncé yet.
Waiting for Beyoncé: Hour Two The MC/Host for the night is a dapper gentleman/comedian named Marcus Wiley. He prompts those standing at the periphery of the venue to "join the congregation," just as a pair of beautiful ladies walk by him on the way to the bar. "I wish the ushers at church looked like you two! Maybe more males would attend service like that! They should also serve some drank. We can call it Hennessy And Honeybuns!"
The David DeLaGarza Band starts the show. The sound at the Warehouse Live Studio is the best I've ever heard. The lighting is normal, though, which is awful. I spot rapper Hoodstar Chantz in the audience. He says he was also invited to perform along with one of the singers. I don't think he ever took the stage either.
Still no Beyoncé.
Waiting for Beyoncé: Hour Three OK, some action! A stream of ladies enter the VIP area. Queen Cora Dunham, who is Beyoncé's drummer and band leader, brightens the room with her smile. Also entering are her fellow band members and dancers, including world-famous freestyle dancers Les Twins from Paris.
Everyone looks fabulous, although a bit tired. Keeping up with Mrs. Carter onstage zaps your energy apparently. But the performers quickly roll through photos and an interview before they take the stage. Queen Cora is an absolute marvel on the drum set. Every strike hits with ferocity and soul, with a precise chaos of a master percussionist and confidence of a symphony conductor.
Les Twins begin to dance on the small stage, and they pop, lock and drop it with incredible energy and agility. A really great, really private and amazing show in front of maybe 100 people.
Yet Beyoncé is still not in the building.
Waiting for Beyoncé: Hour Four For the second night in a row, I'm waiting at Warehouse Live for the headliner to make an appearance. The talent that did show was great. Super-talented singers with top notch back-up bands. Singer Luke James, who also opened up at Toyota, closes the show here.
I head back to the VIP, hoping to speak to Queen Cora. I'm introduced to her husband, a delightful gentleman and bass player named Josh. He informs me that they both went to Kashmere High School, and this event serves as Cora's homecoming just as much as Beyoncé's.
At five minutes until the 2 a.m. curfew, we pull Queen Cora away for a quick interview:
Houston Press: How was the energy at the Mrs. Carter Show at Toyota Center tonight?
Queen Cora: Houston is home, so for both of us and everybody, we are always glad to be in town. And then everybody gets to see and experience the energy that she brings. She is Michael Jackson for our generation, so its exciting to be able to share the stage and be home together.
HP: I heard you say that you and the band have been rehearsing for this tour since November. Where does this Houston show rank amongst those other big shows like the Super Bowl, etc.?
QC: Well, there is nothing like home. Its like, you can go out the best restaurants, but when your mom cooks you something, there is nothing like that. And that's what Houston feels like to us. There's no place like it.
HP: All of the fans seem to have a real love and dedication to Beyoncé and her band and dancers. Does that love translate into your performance?
QC: Oh yeah, totally! The crowd makes a huge difference. Just like where we are, all connected, all on the same page, all committed. Obviously, you can see the support of the fans who came out and sharing their gifts and talents with everyone.
It's nice to have a platform where we can be creative and have a good time with it. So the core of that, you know, the sincerity to the art and to music is what translates to the stage, whether that stage is in front of ten people of ten thousand people, our energy and sincerity is still the same.
HP: Besides being the drummer and band leader for Beyoncé, what's next for Queen Cora?
QC: We have a few projects that we are working on. (Her husband) Josh and I started a bass (guitar) company, we have a finance business that offers real estate and tax services, and a host of other resources that everyone in and out of the industry needs. Its called Dunham Group International.
HP: Thank you for your time.
Beyoncé, unfortunately, was not present at her afterparty. No hard feelings here. As the mother of an 18-month-old and wife of the coolest man in show business, I'm sure she was relaxing at home after giving her all at an exhausting homecoming performance earlier in the night. We wish her, Queen Cora, and the rest of her entourage luck on the remaining dates of the tour.
And Bey... if you have it in your heart to approve me for a photo pass to the December show, please let me know. I would certainly "Bow Down" to you forever if you make that happen.
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