We’ve seen a lot of pop artists at Bridgestone: Lady Gaga, Britney Spears, the usual. But easily — very easily — Beyoncé's was the best performance we’ve ever seen at the arena. There’s Beyoncé herself: a good singer, a good dancer (the only good dancer we’ve seen, actually) and an established artist with a slew of hits under her belt. There was the band: all women — eight musicians and three backup singers — all killer. There were the dancers: twin brothers and a bunch of other ladies hitting every mark without coming off robotic or overly practiced, and keeping the crowd entertained during B’s costume-change interludes. Oh, sweet Mary, the costumes. So many sequins. Shoe changes with every costume change, too. And the production itself is the only one we’ve ever seen, in any genre of music, to actually justify an expensive ticket price. There was a lot of fire. There were a lot of sparks. There was a second stage built in the middle of the arena that Beyoncé soared to on wires in a rain of glitter confetti. There were elaborate screens and videos and lights and a lot more fire. So much fire. Guys. It was awesome.
That is not to say, however, that it wasn’t a slow start. Getting into the arena took a minute, if only because a vast majority of the audience was women in short, tight dresses and high-heeled shoes trying to gracefully teeter their way inside. Opener Luke James (yeah, Beyoncé had an opener, weird huh?) played the role of male stripper to the impromptu-bachelorette-party vibe, singing pretty dull R&B songs in a vest with no shirt on underneath. His job was to be moderately handsome, and he succeeded. Then it was waiting. The 2 Chainz house music was a hit; Kings of Leon was not. The wave was started successfully. We spotted Tennessee’s own Kid President making his be-suited way through the crowd, followed by a camera crew. There were commercials for various products that all happened to feature Beyoncé. It kind of took forever.
9:40 p.m. and Queen Bey at last. We had kind of cheated (let’s just call it due diligence) and checked out set lists for other dates of The Mrs. Carter Show, so we knew she was going to kick it off with “Run the World (Girls),” a Major Lazer-sampling banger of a track, and it paid off. The patient crowd snapped out of it immediately and the party was started. “End of Time,” the very next song, featured a curtain of flying sparks behind Beyoncé and her dancers. Seriously, this show looked like it cost about $100,000 only two songs in.
“If I Were a Boy” in a black sparkly unitard. “Baby Boy” in front of a large video screen that projected images similar to those she utilized at her Super Bowl Half Time performance: shadows, projected backup dancers, mod black-and-white flashes. MORE FIRE. There was “Naughty Girl.” There was a Tina Turner-esqe short, fringed, green dress. While she performed in the middle of the arena (after she ascended across the crowd in a haze of glitter, remember?) we think Kid President got to sing a few lines, along with a gay man whose life just peaked. But then it was floating back over the crowd to the main stage: a “Countdown” countdown, and “Crazy in Love” followed by “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It),” the best one-two punch of dance songs currently available in the world of popular music. There was the Pan-African Lisa Frank-themed “Grown Woman,” and more sparkly confetti explosions over the crowd.
Beyoncé requested a moment of silence for Trayvon Martin that was 99.5 percent complied with; a thoughtful, necessary and jarring moment. She sang the first few lines of “I Will Always Love You,” a standard part of the show that now seemed especially poignant, and segued into the show’s closer, “Halo.”