You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Beyonce

An undeniably charismatic, commanding singer and a dancer of staggering energy.

Beyonce’s “I Am…” tour, which played Staples Center on Monday night, is a dazzling production — she is an undeniably charismatic, commanding singer and a dancer of staggering energy. She’s surrounded by a powerful but flexible all-female band and a phalanx of dancers, outfitted in some 70 costumes designed by French fashion legend Thierry Mugler, and augmented by high-def screens and enough fans blowing back her hair to power one of T. Boone Pickens’ wind farms. It’s a night out worthy of a performer who topped Forbes’ list of richest under-30 celebs.

But all this energy orbits a concept that feels muddled at best. Early on, Beyonce claims that the evening is dedicated to female self-empowerment, but she ends the night confessing, “I am … yours.” Like her most recent album, the double-platinum “I Am … Sasha Fierce” (Columbia), the concert showcases Knowles’ Janus-like self-conception — the sensitive, ballad-heavy Beyonce, and the groove-driven bad girl, Sasha Fierce. Yet this dichotomy is given short shift. About the only difference one can ascertain between Beyonce and Sasha is that when the latter talks about an underwire bra, she’s referring to its electrical connection.

And without an overarching theme, the staging — impressive as it is — comes off as hollow. The costumes and images start to feel like ads for feminine products. The blocks of electric color and the flowing white resortwear (that’s magically turned into a puffy, swirling wedding dress) during “Ave Maria” could be lifted out of commercials seen on daytime talkshows or in the pages of Allure. The futuristic Plexiglas and animal print costume seen during the “Sweet Dreams” video could have come out of Vogue, and the glamorous black-and-white images viewed during a costume change wouldn’t look out of place in Vanity Fair. Even her walking on air from the mainstage to the smaller B-stage set in the middle of the area feels borrowed. It’s hard not to shake the thought that there’s something being sold here, and the product is simply Beyonce.

That doesn’t mean there’s not much to enjoy. The band allows some playfulness to slip into the music — she folds a passionate take of Alanis Morissette’s “You Oughta Know” into “If I Were a Boy” and Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel” into “Ave Maria.” And songs such as the grime-styled “Diva,” the propulsive “Single Ladies” (preceded by a medley of YouTube video imitations) and the bouncy “Radio” (accompanied by footage of the 5-year-old Beyonce hamming it up for the camera) show her stretching musically.

The latter images echo in the evening’s most uncomfortable moment. During “Halo,” the evening’s penultimate number, she pays tribute to Michael Jackson. It’s certainly heartfelt, but when a singer who got her start in a youthful family act masterminded by her father says she wants to be just like Mike, it’s creepy.

Beyonce

Staples Center; 18,000 seats; $1,000 top

Production: Presented by AEG Live. Accompanied by Suga Mama: Bibi McGill (co-musical director), Divinity Walker Roxx (co-musical director), Rie Tsuji, Brittani, Marcie Chapa, Nikki Glaspie, Kim Thompson, Crystal Torres, Tia Fuller and Katty Rodriguez-Harrold, as well as the Mamas: Montina Cooper, Crystal A. Collins, Tiffany Riddick. Also appearing: RichGirl. Reviewed July 13, 2009.

More Scene

  • HBO Presents-Night of Too Many Stars

    Jon Stewart, Other A-List Comics Skip Over Louis C.K. at 'Night of Too Many Stars'

    Beyonce’s “I Am…” tour, which played Staples Center on Monday night, is a dazzling production — she is an undeniably charismatic, commanding singer and a dancer of staggering energy. She’s surrounded by a powerful but flexible all-female band and a phalanx of dancers, outfitted in some 70 costumes designed by French fashion legend Thierry Mugler, […]

  • Variety Hitmakers Brunch

    Kendrick Lamar, DJ Khaled, Hailee Steinfeld Honored at Inaugural Variety Hitmakers Event

    Beyonce’s “I Am…” tour, which played Staples Center on Monday night, is a dazzling production — she is an undeniably charismatic, commanding singer and a dancer of staggering energy. She’s surrounded by a powerful but flexible all-female band and a phalanx of dancers, outfitted in some 70 costumes designed by French fashion legend Thierry Mugler, […]

  • The 'Runaways' Praise Series' Diversity at

    'Marvel's Runaways' Stars Praise Series' Diversity at Hulu Premiere

    Beyonce’s “I Am…” tour, which played Staples Center on Monday night, is a dazzling production — she is an undeniably charismatic, commanding singer and a dancer of staggering energy. She’s surrounded by a powerful but flexible all-female band and a phalanx of dancers, outfitted in some 70 costumes designed by French fashion legend Thierry Mugler, […]

  • 'The Shape of Water' film premiere

    Guillermo del Toro Calls 'The Shape of Water' a New Type of 'Beauty and the Beast'

    Beyonce’s “I Am…” tour, which played Staples Center on Monday night, is a dazzling production — she is an undeniably charismatic, commanding singer and a dancer of staggering energy. She’s surrounded by a powerful but flexible all-female band and a phalanx of dancers, outfitted in some 70 costumes designed by French fashion legend Thierry Mugler, […]

  • Girls Inc. hosts the 2017 LA

    Warner Bros. TV Exec Calls for End to Sexual Harassment: 'Enough Is Enough'

    Beyonce’s “I Am…” tour, which played Staples Center on Monday night, is a dazzling production — she is an undeniably charismatic, commanding singer and a dancer of staggering energy. She’s surrounded by a powerful but flexible all-female band and a phalanx of dancers, outfitted in some 70 costumes designed by French fashion legend Thierry Mugler, […]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content