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Saturday, 2 July 2016

LIVE: Beyoncé (Stadium of Light, Sunderland)

She's Bey-ond brilliant! Beyoncé reigns supreme with slick and visually stunning show to 51,000 fans in Sunderland, writes ADRIAN THRILLS
She HAS shown that she can cut it in huge indoor arenas and glitzy awards ceremonies.
But, as football pundits sometimes say when talking about dainty-footed superstars, would Beyoncé still fancy it on a rainy Tuesday night in Sunderland?

Anyone who doubted whether the Texan Titan really has the chops of a true powerhouse got an emphatic answer this week.


Superstar Beyoncé performed at the Stadium of Light in Sunderland (pictured) as part of her worldwide Formation tour 
The stunning singer belted out hits Love on Top and Hold Up in front of a packed crowd - with focus falling on songs from her new album Lemonade

Opening her Formation tour under a slate-grey Wearside sky, pop’s warrior princess showed just why she is the world’s most formidable super-trouper, royally entertaining 51,000 welcoming fans with a slickly-paced and visually-stunning tour de force.

There were moments that electrified a packed stadium. She sang early single Baby Boy in high heels while leading her female dancers through a robotic routine on a wet, potentially hazardous stage. She sang the ballad Love On Top a cappella while crouched on the lip of the stage, her face inches away from awed fans.

The initial portents hadn’t been promising. Before her weather-delayed arrival, a member of her road crew could be seen wiping up onstage puddles with a white towel at the end of a mop — a quaintly old-fashioned preamble to a concert that revelled in its high-tech, digital effects.

And, once the show had started, it became clear that Queen Bey was happy to reduce some of her biggest hits (the Destiny’s Child songs Bootylicious and Independent Women) to fleeting snippets, while omitting others (the barnstorming Single Ladies) completely.

The focus fell largely on tunes from this year’s Lemonade and other recent albums that have signalled a shift away from traditional R&B towards a more inventive mix of electronic pop, jazz, rock and country. The message was that Beyoncé, only 34, is still moving forward.

Not that the Stadium Of Light seemed too bothered by any omissions. Beyoncé’s new songs, many of them addressing problems in her eight-year marriage to rapper Jay-Z, quickly became mass singalongs:

Hold Up, essentially a reggae take on Andy Williams’s Sixties hit Can’t Get Used To Losing You, was a high point; soul ballad All Night allied subtle touches to the singer’s customary power and impeccable sense of timing; Don’t Hurt Yourself was all bluesy, Led Zep-style power-chords, complete with a histrionic solo; the jazzy Daddy Lessons, sung with 19 dancers onstage, suggested that Beyoncé is launching a bid to claim the whole of pop as her own.

There were moments when the show felt disjointed, partly due to a string of costume changes for the singer and a dance troupe that moved like a well-drilled regiment. Among the night’s most eye-catching outfits were Crazy In Love’s figure-hugging red latex and Formation’s sequinned leotards.

A stunning Beyoncé performs to 51,000 fans in Sunderland

Adrian Thrills writes: 'Beyoncé’s new songs, many of them addressing problems in her eight-year marriage to rapper Jay-Z, quickly became mass singalongs'

Although she didn’t appear aloof, and on occasions looked visibly bowled over by the warmth of her welcome, Beyoncé spoke only sporadically. There were reassuring platitudes for the broken-hearted (‘the most important relationship you can have is with yourself’) plus a thank-you to fans ‘who first met me 19 years ago in Destiny’s Child’.

Other than that, she took on the role of a fearsome cheerleader: ‘If you’re proud of who you are and where you come from, say: “I slay!”.’ Sunderland duly obliged.

There was a tribute to Prince when Purple Rain was played over the PA system — if only Beyoncé had sung it herself! — and a sentimental segment in which family snaps of the singer, her husband and daughter Blue Ivy were projected onto a screen to loud applause.

Accompanied by plumes of fire that streaked into the night sky, the two-hour show hurtled to a high-octane conclusion with all the giddy momentum of a nightclub DJ splicing tunes together, with dance numbers such as Run The World (Girls) and Freedom arriving thick and fast as a smaller, secondary stage became a paddling pool in which the singer and her dancers splashed around — a fitting finale for a soggy night.

But, reminding us that her greatest calling card is her spectacular voice, Beyoncé finished by showcasing its enduring power on the Vegas-style ballad Me, Myself And I and the anthemic single Halo. She remains an indomitable performer.

BEYONCÉ plays Wembley Stadium tomorrow and Sunday before outdoor shows in Manchester,

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