Beyoncé unbeatable before Dublin audience
Review: Musical juggernaut rolls into town for first of four dates
Beyoncé performs at The Brit Awards 2014 in London last month. Photograph: Ian Gavan/Getty Images
When Beyoncé toured last year, it was in a peculiar state of limbo. Her new album hadn’t materialised, and the show morphed from something that was meant to be promoting new songs to a greatest hits format. But suddenly in December, without any prior marketing or notice, the Texan singer released her fifth album digitally, a collection of 14 songs and 17 videos.
Within six days it had sold one million copies. A month later, that number had trebled. And now she’s back on the stage full throttle. The bulk of the first half of the first of four sold out dates in Dublin is made up of tracks from that self-titled album. Musically, it’s her most fascinating yet, progressive and utterly contemporary, complex rhythms and almost avant-garde song structures.
As a vocal performer, Beyoncé is perhaps unrivalled. While Adele and Celine Dion can belt out tunes gloriously, nobody can match Beyoncé’s on stage athleticism and her ability to not just hold a note while furiously dancing in intimidating heels, but make it soar. ‘Drunk In Love’ is performed on a chair in a nude and glitter body suit, although anyone assuming her husband Jay-Z would step out to had his verse was disappointed.
‘Haunted’ becomes a stunning atmospheric live piece of work. ‘XO’, like ‘Halo’, manages to overcome its blunt sentimentality to become genuinely sweet. But it’s ‘Flawless’, towards the start of the show that really captures this new phase of Beyoncé’s career. You simply can’t imagine Rihanna or Katy Perry of even Lady Gaga so effectively amalgamating a speech on feminism by Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, with her own assertive rally call.
Beyoncé celebrates her own sexuality and physicality in a way that articulated by someone else — Madonna or Britney Spears, let’s say — would seem crass instead of empowered.
Her bulging back catalogue of massive hits, ‘Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)’, ‘Crazy In Love’, ‘1+1’ and ‘Irreplaceable’ are dispensed almost casually. All the while, the production values of the concert; visuals that occasionally flirt with Ron Fricke, glitter canons, pyrotechnics and more, solidify a running order that could end up being disjointed, but is instead a juggernaut.
Under the musical direction of lead guitarist Bibi McGill, Beyoncé’s all female band don’t put a note wrong. And her muses of choreography, the French dancers Les Twins, spring brilliant out of left field. With each new album and tour, Beyoncé answers the question of how she can better herself emphatically. Right now, as the screams from a mostly female audience of all ages attests, she’s unbeatable.