Beyoncé’s Mrs. Carter Show is all about empowerment. She and her all-female band wowed a the crowd at the ACC in Toronto on July 21, 2013
Published on Mon Jul 22 2013
The Mrs. Carter Show, Air Canada Centre, July 21
Mrs. Carter didn’t merely come to play at the Air Canada Centre Sunday night.
She came to conquer.
Even before the very first note of “Run the World (Girls)” blasted through the speakers, pop superstar Beyoncé Knowles gave notice that her impending two-hour extravaganza would be a feast for the eyes as much as the ears.
The visual bombardment began with a stylish video that unveiled a corseted and aristocratic Knowles undergoing her coronation.
It was as chic an introduction to this world of Beyoncé as any fashionista worth their Louboutins would appreciate and as film fantasy melted into onstage reality, with the singer’s dancers-in-waiting rising up from beneath the floor of the spacious stage to assume their positions, their regal queen suddenly appeared in a white jacket, matching minidress and high heels, and set her concert’s wheels in motion.
The music, played by a thunderous 12-piece all-female band that included two keyboardists, three background singers and a three-piece horn section, started and the leggy Beyoncé began jerking her neck and shoulders to the song’s rhythm as a gargantuan wall of blinding strobe lights flashed and fireballs ascended.
It never really let up from there: as she sang, danced and gyrated through 23 numbers from her four-album career (and threw in her old band Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor” and a snippet of Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” to boot), Beyoncé managed to out-glam Vegas with her 11 costume changes, 11 dancers, two stages, purposefully angled video screens to give those fans at high altitudes near the stage their best sightlines and a hi-tech lighting setup that was scattered all over the arena.
Also worthy of mention is that the arrangements weren’t carbon copies of the original recordings. “If I Were a Boy” incorporated The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony” and was slowed to an intense ballad; “Baby Boy” crackled with dance hall electricity as Beyoncé and dancers whipped up a frenzied routine; and after she zip-lined, in a sparkling blue catsuit, over the crowd to reach the second stage, a dynamic combo of “Irreplaceable” and “Love on Top” left room for fans to have a microphone stuck in front of their faces and an invitation to chime in.
There was also a reason the show kicked off with “Run the World (Girls)”: despite billing this spectacle as The Mrs. Carter Show tour — in reference to being the wife of recently de-hyphenated rapper Shawn “Jay Z” Carter — this show was centred on the empowerment of the individual, particularly women.
“I feel very lucky to be able to do what I love,” Beyoncé humbly asserted to the estimated crowd of 15,000 early in the first of two ACC shows (the second is set for Dec. 16), explaining that she had attended many concerts as a youngster (though omitting the fact that she started Destiny’s Child when she was 16) and dreamed of being onstage and headlining her own shows.
“And tonight, I’m here with you.”
And to illustrate the heights of possibility, the video vignettes in between wardrobe changes featured the leggy singer in guises ranging from cig-puffing housewife to Nubian queen to coquettish airplane mechanic and fashion icon, with performances like “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” and “Diva,” complete with an intriguing feather dance, enhancing the pay-for-play concept of show business if you have the talent, capacity and penchant for hard work needed to achieve it.
But the reality was tempered by the fantasy, as the beauty known as Beyoncé, her blond mane constantly billowing in the breeze of high-powered electric fans positioned at the front of the stage, made it all look so easy.
“I hope I’ve been inspiring,” Beyoncé said after the final chords of “Halo” had been played and the giant video screen was descending in front of her for the last time before the lights came up.
Inspiring, probably, but overwhelming: definitely.