Only Beyoncé can call performing to a sold-out audience of 3,500 an “intimate affair” with a straight face.
If there’s anything to be learned from the R&B pop talent’s magnificent set last night at New York City’s Roseland Ballroom for her 4 Intimate Nights With Beyoncé run, it’s that Beyoncé’s bigger than any ballroom.
Queen B’s manic swarm of fans attacked the venue early, shoving and jostling through Roseland’s severely undermanned entrance, then rammed their way up to prime viewing real estate in the standing-room-only floor setup. Clear-eyed and swift, none seemed under the influence of a controlled substance. But obviously, they were high on excitement.
Just after 10pm, Beyoncé’s band arrived. For this evening, the first of four in the mini-series concluding Aug. 19 (All dates are sold out; sorry, guys), she brought along not just a drummer, keyboarder, and guitarist, but also a horn section and an orchestra—all women, cramped up on stage like an extremely concentrated dose of musical girl power.
Then came the lady of the hour. In a shimmering gold dress, Beyoncé opened with a refresher course of how a young lady from Houston, Texas, became a pop icon. Similar to her 2009 stint in Las Vegas (I Am… Yours) at the Wynn, the show began with a performance of the Jackson 5’s “I Wanna Be Where You Are,” which was followed by an audio autobiography of sorts.
Here’s the abbreviated version: She (as part of the first incarnation of Destiny’s Child) was on Star Search in 1990 and lost. The group was later signed to Elektra Records. The label dropped them. Then Columbia signed them. Success! Leading to a run-through of Destiny smashes like “Say My Name,” “Independent Women,” and of course, “Survivor.”
Next, Beyoncé performed her solo hits—but not before mentioning that Columbia didn’t believe she had one big radio record on her 2003 debut album, Dangerously in Love. They were right, she teased. It cranked out several. That recap lasted about a half hour, which was long enough considering the night was only supposed to feature songs from her latest effort, 4. The medley was a gracious move on her part, though–pleasing all the fans that have rocked with her since day one.
B then climbed on top of a piano and launched into track one of 4: the love-drunk ballad “1+1.” Her voice rang soulfully, only breaking to let the crowd fill in gaps for a sing-along feel. Old school groove “Party,” Afrobeat “End of Time,” and lead single “Run the World (Girls)” were among the several highlights of the show.
It’s no secret: Beyoncé’s all about female empowerment, making her music not so relatable for this young male journalist. It wouldn’t be a cool look for me to be caught singing “Single Ladies” at the top of my lungs in the gym. But her excellence is undeniable. Her quaking vocals beat her contemporaries and competes with legends’, as does her dancing.
When she closed with 4’s final cut “I Was Here” and bowed, fanatic screams and cheers followed. There was no encore. None was needed. Still, I’m looking forward to seeing her in a bigger venue, where there’s more space for her voice to soar, elbow room for her band to play, and room for her wild-child fans to dance.