Concert Review: Beyonce Delivers a Dynamic, If Somewhat Robotic, Second “Intimate” Night at Roseland


Beyonce Live 4 Intimate Nights

If you haven’t already caught the scoop, Beyoncé has an affinity for numbers; specifically, the number four. Front and center at last night’s second of “4 Intimate Nights with Beyoncé” at Roseland Ballroom (the first of which took place on Sunday, the FOURteenth), the lady of the hour took the stage to break down the numerological fondness and dazzle superfans and music industry elite alike. Because she usually performs for audiences ten times the size of the 2,500 capacity venue, tickets for this coveted concert series were a hot commodity, and with VIPs like Diddy, Russell Simmons, Ne-Yo, and The-Dream looking on the balcony, a ravenous crowd chanted the singer’s name repeatedly before the show’s 10 p.m. start time. Homegirl has unwavering disciples, and as we were soon reminded, she deserves each and every one of them.

The well-rehearsed, ninety-minute show —whose setlist was identical to Sunday night’s show—began with Beyoncé narrating the initial chapters of her career’s autobiography. From militaristic practice sessions at nine-years-old with the initial members of Destiny’s Child to securing their deal with Columbia Records in 1995, Bey’ ran through the timeline of her passionate path, stitching performance snippets into the fabric of her tales. Cut-down, crowd-pleasing hits like “Bills, Bills Bills,” “Say My Name,” and “Independent Women Part I” perpetuated a roar of approval that crescendoed when the introduction to “Survivor” was liberated by the diva’s all-female band. “With a lot of success comes a lot of negativity,” admitted the star as she launched into the female-empowerment anthem, graciously crediting her former cohorts Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams while also justifying the song’s endurance-focused sentiments.

There is often calm after a tumultuous storm, however, and once Beyoncé was finished discussing the uneven footing of her early days as an artist, she shared with the audience how powerful it was when she finally “found love.” Right on cue, the opening notes to the then-new couple’s very public relationship confirmation, Jay-Z’s “’03 Bonnie and Clyde,” hit our nostalgic radars, and as you might imagine, the crowd lost their minds. Before transitioning into a quick Dreamgirls story, Bey’ also performed her other Hov-centric hit, “Crazy in Love,” graduating from a slower, re-worked, funk version of the song into the full, familiar rendition, showcasing the video’s stomping strut that we all know and love. By also revisiting other iconic choreography that fans relentlessly study and mimic throughout the show, Bey’ managed to create a sea of “Single Ladies” hand-twirling and, once she got to the material from 4, lots of attempts at her “Run The World (Girls)” stankyleg-riverdancing.

The story behind her appreciation for the number four was robust. “I felt like it was meant to to be,” said the picture-perfect singer of her involvement in President Obama’s inauguration; his birthday is August 4th, he’s the 44th president, and he was elected on November 4th and inaugurated on January 4th. Beyoncé’s birthday is September 4th, Jay-Z’s is December 4th, and on April 4th of 2008, “somebody put a ring on it.”

“How many of y’all have the 4 album?,” asked the starlet of her super-attentive audience. While they appeared to respond with overwhelming affirmations, the next section of her set seemed a bit detached. “1+1” and “I Care” resonated soulfully, and songs like “Countdown,” “Party,” and “Love on Top” were very well-received (the last of which had The-Dream lip syncing Beyoncé’s vocals with uber-animated, take-me-to-church hand gestures), but “I Miss You” and “Rather Die Young” came off like unfortunate interludes, seemingly missing the mark with fans in the room. It was almost as if, after being fed the more uptempo, frothy treats earlier in the show, the crowd was hungry for more-familiar hits to break up what was starting to feel like a potential-single litmus test for the songbird’s beloved 4. Were we in a petri dish, being studied for signs of life? Possibly, especially since the show’s presentation was flawless almost to a fault, with Beyoncé herself coming off a smidge robotic and, down to every arm movement and hair-flip, over-choreographed. As her rapper/mogul husband described her in an interview on Sunday, “she’s like a machine;” but all hail BeyoncéBot.

Finally digging deeper and showing a less-cyborg side of her being, Bey’ closed the show with “I Was Here,” the song that will be her next single. Irrefutably human, the ballad is a meaningful call for sustaining her legacy, and as the wind blew her curly tresses back, the perfectly-controlled notes that escaped her mouth gave us chills and brought tears to the eyes of many. Afterwards, while smiling and soaking in the energy of folks she had been bonding with all night, Beyoncé confessed that she hadn’t been in “intimate theaters” like Roseland since her days in Destiny’s Child. But the pleasure was all ours, even despite the somewhat forced, inorganic nature of what felt like her attempt at her husband’s MSG Fade To Black concert back in 2003. Hyper-scripted or not, there’s no doubting Beyoncé’s talent as a performer; her undeniable vocal ability, show(wo)manship, and charm infused the room the entire evening, and most importantly, allowed her to share her most personal album yet.

Set List:
I Wanna Be Where You Are
No, No, No
No, No, No (Part 2)
Bills, Bills, Bills
Say My Name
Independent Women Part I
’03 Bonnie And Clyde
Crazy In Love
Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)
I Care
I Miss You
Best Thing I Never Had
Rather Die Young
Love On Top
End Of Time
Run The World (Girls)
I Was Here

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