Beyond Beyoncé

The unmisakable Beyonce Knowles and band show Vienna what it means to be an “Independant Woman“

On The Town | Anna Claessen | June 2007

Heavy makeup, big earrings, high heels and sexy dancing in short, revealing outfits, snuggling up to a rapper – these are normally the things I hate about female pop singers, an image degrading to women. Beyoncé, former lead singer of the R&B  band Destiny´s Child, the best selling girl group of all time, was sure to fit that mold. Anyway, I told myself, I was only going because my friends were going…

But she fooled me. Not the costume, which was all there, down to the spikes. It was her all female band: two women on saxophones, keyboards and drums, one on trumpet, one on bass and one playing the guitar. And it was African American women to boot, ruling the stage.

On the way to the May 8th concert in the Wiener Stadthalle, we listened to the artist’s latest CD to get us in the mood and it did. After a while, we found ourselves dancing in the car. Once there, it was pouring rain. We picked up tickets for €40 each — unfortunately not the closer standing tickets we wanted. Disappointed, we went to the seating area, found our places on the right side to the stage and complained to each other until the show started. To my pleasure and surprise, the seats turned out to be pretty good.

Suddenly, Beyoncè appeared on the stage in a long silver dress. She came up with fireworks. Her backup vocals, three curvy African American beauties, removed her long skirt, and she danced in a short silver sheath with her dancers in equally short, slinky dresses, singing all her latest hits. It was refreshing to see some curvy ladies on stage.

Muscular male dancers entered, greeted with much applause by the women. Those six-pack bodies seemed to please all the ladies. Including me. Nice to see some male specimen onstage. Beyoncé surprised her audience by singing one of her own songs, one that wasn’t in the program and had just come out, called "Beautiful liar," which includes vocals by Shakira. Beyoncé  came out wearing a green bra and long skirt, like the one Shakira normally wears on stage. Then the female dancers danced the same routine as she does with Shakira in their video. Shaking their hips and moving their hands to the beat of the Middle Eastern-style music.

Once more, she changed her outfit, appearing again in the long silver dress singing some beautiful love ballades, refreshing after hearing the powerful new songs. One love melody was so intense that she herself was moved to tears. In the end a male dancer dressed as an angel put his arms around her and took her away. I didn’t really get the details, as I didn’t know the lyrics but seeing a star like her being vulnerable onstage surprised me.

Beyoncé has appeared in several films and sang all the major tracks, including the 2006 film Pink Panther remake, which included a whole dance routine giving the troupe a chance at theater. The female dancers were the detectives, wearing trench coats, hats and magnifier glasses walking all over the stage searching for clues that the male dancers might have left, as the audience had seen them earlier, all in black, robbing a bank.

Then Beyoncé appeared with her dancers in a "naked" outfit – a skin colored leotard with silver lame toreador jacket sparkling from hand to breast. It became a little vulgar when the male dancers joined them – or maybe it was just my imagination.

Then a red and black background appeared on screen and a familiar music played through my ear. It was the cell-block tango from the musical "Chicago," in a new lively interpretation of the scene from the original production.

A shining red long jacket was the fashion in the next act where they sang "Ring the Alarm." From sassy to classy, she changed to a different long silver dress with a white mink on her shoulder. She ended the show in an orange short dress, like the dress we normally see her in her videos.

There were a lot of changes – too many I thought, especially not when it left the audience cooling it’s heels, listening to the band play songs we didn’t know over and over again to fill the gap. But her performance was so full of life, dancing and jumping around the stage, that my friends and I jumped out of our seats and started dancing right along, and kept it up almost the whole time. After the concert, we couldn’t stop talking about it. The clothes, the dancers and seeing those classy women rule the stage.

What surprised me about the show was how entertaining it was – two and a half hours with all her famous songs, from her Destiny´s Child days, to the songs from the movies she sang in and from her solo career, familiar but still fresh, reinvented for us.

She may have had too much makeup on, too fancy and revealing outfits and been dancing a little provocatively. But after all, she is in this pop industry where that is the norm.

Just don’t let her look fool you.

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