EmptyMadison Square Garden, New York City
Saturday, Aug. 4
It's not for nothing that they call this show "The Beyonce Experience." Like the summer blockbuster movies currently crowding theater screens, this tour by the pop/R&B icon resembles not so much a concert as a series of thrillingly staged set pieces. It's safe to say that her fans will not be disappointed by the two-hour extravaganza.
From the diva-style opening, when she rises from beneath the stage amidst a blinding sparkler display, to the final audience sing-along on the female-empowering hit "Irreplaceable," the star delivers a crowd-pleasing spectacle that offers as much visual as musical stimulation.
Regarding the former, to say that Beyonce looks terrific is probably redundant. Her fashion parade of form-fitting, eye-catching costumes -- most notably a belly dancer's get-up in which she demonstrated some hip-shaking moves that indicated Shakira better watch her back -- provided ample opportunities for shameless leering.
Fortunately, the star has much more to offer than just eye candy. Even in the midst of her strenuous dance numbers she sounded amazing, only occasionally lapsing into vocal histrionics on a few of the ballads. It was a brilliant stroke to employ an all-female band, dubbed Suga Mama after the "B-Day" cut. They were given plenty of chances to shine with lengthy solos delivered during the star's numerous costume changes.
The stage picture was completed by a plus-size female backup trio, some male dancers providing the necessary testosterone, and a large dance corps delivering routines inspired by "Chicago" and "Sweet Charity," among other things.
The largely uptempo show featured some surprising arrangements that gave the material freshness, such as the singer's interpolation of Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" into her smash "Crazy in Love" and an injection of "Love to Love You Baby" into "Naughty Girl." The evening's highlights included a fast-paced medley of Destiny's Child hits, a pulse-raising version of "Get Me Bodied" and a "Dreamgirls" segment that included the title song and her Oscar-nominated hit "Listen."
The show included a generous opening set by blue-eyed soul crooner Robin Thicke, whose falsetto voice and suggestive dance moves clearly struck a romantic chord with the largely female crowd.