With fans queuing in relentless rain for hours — in some cases, overnight — to get a good spot in the standing-room only venue, the pre-show atmosphere at the premiere of 4 Intimate Nights was surprisingly subdued. But sore feet and damp clothes were quickly forgotten when the 29-year-old hit the stage in a slinky gold mini-dress. Beyonce told the adoring crowd that she wanted to share her story. There was a little confusion and a lot of joy when the “Lift Off” singer began performing snippets of early Destiny’s Child hits (“No, No, No” and “Bug A Boo”) and wittily explained each step of her career.
She recounted the birth of Destiny’s Child (when she was 9 years old), spoke of the band’s early rejection and made a series of cute puns about their ever-changing line-up. Highlights included “Survivor” and an inspired rendition of “Bootylicious.” The 2011 MTV Video Music Award nominee then moved on to her solo material, re-enacting her iconic “Crazy In Love” catwalk strut and calling on the crowd’s help for an “Irreplaceable” sing-a-long. Bey then performed “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)” — complete with famous choreography.
After finishing her surprise walk down memory lane, Beyonce said she had reached the point in her career where she wanted to make “real music” for herself and her fans. It was risky to turn away from the urban-dance sound currently ruling the airwaves in favor of organic, ’70s- and ’80s-inspired soul music, but the aspiring director seems to have pulled it off. Her enthusiasm and passion for 4 are catching and the new songs were eagerly devoured by the knowledgeable crowd who clapped and sang along with every line.
Sitting on top of a piano with her band and orchestra watching on, Beyonce wrung every ounce of emotion from the lyrics of “1+1″ and hit each note perfectly. It was an impressive display, but her rendition of “I Care” was even better. The recent Harper’s Bazaar cover girl whipped her hair to the brooding brass and ominous beat, while bringing the song to life with an immaculate vocal. Out of nowhere, this often-overlooked track now seems single-worthy.
Other highlights included “Love On Top”, which was given an uptempo overhaul and got everyone moving to the catchy synths, and “Rather Die Young.” Beyonce described the latter as one of her favorite tracks on 4, and it’s easy to see why: the Luke Steele-penned ballad allowed her to show off her powerful pipes, particularly in the dramatic chorus. As great as those two tracks sounded live, “Countdown” and “End Of Time” garnered the most applause. Both were accompanied by brilliant dance routines and boast sing-a-long choruses.
With the exception of the curiously-omitted “Start Over,” Beyonce eventually performed every song from the standard edition of 4. The worldly pop icon‘s ability to bring new depth and texture to quality material is almost as impressive as her uncanny knack for connecting with the audience on an emotional level. Take, for instance, the final song — it was impossible not to be moved by Mrs. Carter as she fought tears while tackling the clearly personal lyrics of “I Was Here,” which deals with trying to leave a mark on the world. But the pop veteran can sleep easy. Mission well and truly accomplished.
— Reporting by Mike Wass