Beyoncé Knowles is the closest thing America has to a superhero. Consider the evidence from last night’s show at the Toyota Center:

  1. Beyoncé’s mere presence can evidently cause flames to shoot out of the stage and sparks to fall from the sky.
  2. No matter what her position on the stage, Beyoncé’s long mane of hair was always blowing perfectly in the wind.
  3. She changed costumes faster than Clark Kent changed into Superman.
  4. One of Beyoncé’s myriad costumes was a black sequined leotard accessorized with a black cape.
  5. About two-thirds of the way into the concert, Beyoncé actually flew through the air and landed on a second stage at the opposite side of the arena.

As if being a superhero wasn’t enough, Beyoncé apparently also aspires to be American royalty. Her concert began with an introductory video of a coronation ceremony in which courtiers escort Beyoncé to a regal throne, where she graciously accepts the delivery of her crown. When Beyoncé herself finally appeared on center stage in a beaded white lace teddy, flanked by her eight backup dancers, she certainly received a royal welcome from the capacity crowd. “Houston, Texas,” was all Beyoncé had to say to send the audience into spasms of delight. “Houston, Texas,” she repeated, further ratcheting up the energy before launching into a ferocious performance of “Run the World (Girls),” which is as clear a declaration of superhero status as you’re likely to hear.

“Houston, Texas,” was all Beyoncé had to say to send the audience into spasms of delight. 

Even superheroes need sidekicks, of course, and Beyoncé had plenty of them, from her all-female band (complete with its own horn section), to her female backup dancers, to a pair of identical twins in matching Afros who break-danced in between songs, and whom Beyoncé introduced as the only men on the tour.

After the first few songs, Beyoncé left the stage and quickly reemerged in her classic superhero costume of black sequined leotard, black cape, and black cap. As her hair billowed perfectly behind her, she performed a rousing version of “Get Me Bodied.” For “Baby Boy,” the electronic video screen above the stage was lowered to the stage to provide a backdrop to the dancing. A video disquisition on the nature and power of sexuality gave Beyoncé time to change into her third costume, a silver sequined leotard, for her rendition of “Naughty Girl”

From this point in the concert, the costume changes began to come so quickly that all of Beyoncé’s subsequent outfits blur together in my memory into a haze of sequins, lace, and leather. Although clearly crowd-pleasers, the costume changes noticeably slowed the show’s momentum, with the audience sitting down whenever Beyoncé left the stage and standing up again when she returned.

After a somewhat slack middle section, Beyoncé turned up the heat by grabbing a trapeze-like harness and flying across the arena to a second stage, where she led the crowd in sing-a-longs to “Irreplaceable” (“To the left, to the left!” we enthusiastically chanted) and “Love on Top.” As at all of her concerts, Beyoncé gave her fans plenty of attention, descending multiple times into the crowd to shake hands, exchange greetings, and accept gifts. Following a throwback version of “Survivor,” an artifact of her early days with Destiny’s Child, Beyoncé again climbed onto the trapeze and flew back to the main stage.

Before plunging into the show’s climactic songs, Beyoncé took time to establish her Houston bona fides, referencing her childhood in the Third Ward, her church (St. John’s United Methodist), her favorite restaurant (Pappadeaux), and her favorite Houston group (UGK). Then it was back to business, with Beyoncé working her way through her biggest hits—“Crazy in Love,” “Single Ladies,” and a cover of Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You” that segued into “Halo,” a ballad that seems written expressly to be performed in sports arenas.

Towards the end of the show, Beyoncé spotted someone in the crowd holding a sign saying that it was their birthday. Before singing “Happy Birthday” to the lucky fan, Beyoncé asked the audience if anyone else was also celebrating a birthday. The entire arena erupted in cheers.

Making almost 20,000 fans feel like it’s their birthday? Now that’s a super power. 

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