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Yes, Beyoncé's Friday concert at Mohegan Sun Arena broke out all the cool bells and whistles — the choreographed back-up dancers, the dramatic lights, the morphing video screens, the popping pyrotechnics.
Beyoncé, though, never got lost amidst all that. She radiated grade-A star power and gracefully held the center of a spectacular production.
Now, if you saw her aerobicized Super Bowl halftime show earlier this year, you might have expected Beyoncé to dance her way through a concert. And, for certain songs, she did bust out some moves — head jerks, shoulder shimmies, hip rolls — but she was really all about the voice. Early on in the two-hour show, she made her point, with a soaring, complex "Flaws and All" and a tough, attitude-laced "If I Were a Boy." Could it be she sounds better in concert than in recordings? Very possibly.
She rolled out hits from throughout her career, reaching the pinnacle with the one-two-three power-punch of "Survivor," "Crazy in Love" and "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)." The crowd went nuts.
Messages of female empowerment were front and center during the evening — and not just in her lyrics. Beyoncé was backed by an 11-person band that consisted entirely of women. All her dancers except two were female, too. The elaborately produced videos sprinkled throughout the concert often had Beyoncé solemnly intoning messages of pride and self-worth.
There were, frankly, too many of those videos — although it was amusing to see Beyoncé dolled up in Marie Antoinette garb or acting in a black-and-white sequence that could have been a high-end perfume commercial. Granted, the filmed segments are there to allow time for Beyoncé to change her costumes, but still. Maybe a bit fewer outfit switches wouldn't have been a bad thing.
But they should keep the crazy-good costumes, particularly the sparkling catsuit that seemed to shift between shades of violet, cobalt-blue and black under the lights, and the Tina Turner-esque leopard-print fringed mini-dress that was made to move.
Throughout the night, Beyoncé exuded — and I realize most pop stars would take this as an insult — niceness. Dare I say, even wholesomeness. So many singers now seem compelled to inject their shows with out-there edginess and over-the-top sexuality. Beyoncé, on the other hand, staged a show that you'd be comfortable bringing your preteen daughter to see. Well, with the possible exception of her little Fabulous Baker Boys writhe on top of a piano during "1+1."
Beyoncé was certainly feeling the love from her fans Friday. When she walked from the front stage through the audience to a secondary stage at the other end of the arena, the masses magnetized to her, like the Pope on his visit to Brazil. When she wiped her face with a towel and tossed it into the crowd, fans lunged and squealed. Beyoncé hardly needed to dab her face anyway, since, despite all her hard work, she seemed never to sweat. Hey, maybe those omnipresent wind-machines that billow her hair help keep the superstar cool, too. Consider it just another perk of being Beyoncé.