Beyonce's "Live at Roseland" almost worth the self-worship
By Chris Willman
Tue Nov 29, 2011 4:18pm EST
LOS ANGELES (TheWrap.com) - No one ever need organize a tribute concert for Beyonce, since she’s done such a good job staging her own self-homage with “Beyonce: Live at Roseland,” a concert DVD that also doubles as a self-directed episode of “This is Your Life.”
The second half of the program, shot during a four-night stand in August, is a nearly complete run-through of her most recent album, the possibly underrated “4.” Fan reaction to the record hasn’t been as enthusiastic as it was for Beyonce’s earlier albums, which doesn’t stop her from introducing it (without any real elaboration) as “my most defining moment.”
Preceding this is a 30-minute medley/monologue billed as “The Journey B 4,” in which the pre-2011 greatest hits of Beyonce’s and Destiny’s Child are excerpted mostly in half-minute snippets, interrupted by a self-serving stream of fact- and figure-filled historical commentary. It’s sort of like the inevitable middle act in a Diana Ross show dedicated to paying lip service to the Supremes.
It’s all highly impressive, and almost all a little annoying, if solipsism isn’t your thing. Say this for Beyonce though: Even at her most egotistical, she’s strangely never less than utterly likable. She might actually be the world’s most good-natured megalomaniac.
Part 1 was probably more fun to experience at Manhattan’s Roseland ballroom than it is to watch on home video — especially if you already own a copy of “I Am… Yours - An Intimate Performance in the Encore Theater,” a 2009 DVD filmed in Vegas that included a scripted Destiny’s Child mega-medley almost identical to this disc’s.
In the intervening two years, apparently no one told her she needed a script doctor to reshape a life story that goes a little like this:
"And the hits just kept on coming! But the success just wasn’t enough to keep Destiny’s Child together… With a lot of success comes a lot of negativity… Now it’s 2002, and I just finished co-starring in my first No. 1 movie, ‘Austin Powers’… They told me I didn’t have one hit single (on ‘Dangerously in Love’). I guess they were right. I had five!… All the hard work (portraying Etta James) paid off, since it got me my second Golden Globe nomination… " And then this: "What do you do after 16 Grammys and millions of records sold? Whatever makes you happy!"
Repeated triumphs over show-biz adversity aside, no one will be mistaking this for an Elaine Stritch one-woman show.
Part 2 proves far more satisfying, even though Beyonce may be overestimating “4” as the culmination of her career to date, if only because the tunes all last more than a minute each and there is no further boasting about the accolades she has earned from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Liberated from the lousy patter to pay tribute to songs instead of herself, she is… fairly glorious. Naturally.
Almost across the board, the live versions of the “4” material are more invigorating than the studio equivalents, with Beyonce’s’s eight-piece all-female band making everything sound like the great cross-pollination of contemporary urban and ’70s soul you’d hope for.
(You do have to wonder what that 10-piece string section — also all-female — is doing constantly sawing away directly behind Beyonce’s, besides providing visual props, since you’d be hard-pressed to ever hear cellos and violins in the mix.)
"End of Time" is a particular stunner, with drummer Cora Coleman-Dunham transforming an already martial beat into something like a one-woman marching band drum corps.
And Bey is at her best on “Love on Top,” which takes what is a very tired diva stunt — repeated octave changes — so far over the top that the trick officially becomes spectacular again. It doesn’t hurt that she’s employing her mastery of multiple key changes not on some hackneyed ballad but on a fun, Motown-inspired romp.
"4" had more balladry than we’d heard on a Beyonce’s album in a while. Three of the first four songs featured from the album fall into that category, climaxing with the memorable sight of the singer kneeling on a piano top for "1 + 1," allowing us a chance to focus exclusively on the super-humanness of her thighs… and, sure, vocal prowess that seems almost irritatingly effortless.
It’s all good until the closing “I Was Here,” a self-celebratory anthem that seems to be arriving a few decades earlier than any superstar’s valedictory ballad should. While Beyonce sings about the mark she’s making on the world, you get random footage of the star traveling the world, admiring a portrait of Gandhi, earning more awards, greeting Make-a-Wish kids, and hanging with Nelson Mandela, Michael Jackson, Obama, and Oprah.
Oh, well. The straightforward performances were fun while they lasted, before they gave way not just to that terrible closing montage but also auteurist end credits that have Beyonce’s giving herself title cards as director, executive producer, and co-show-director/choreographer.
It may be up to true diva devotees, of course, to rightfully determine whether all this sweet self-congratulation counts as hubris when we’re dealing with an actual goddess.
"Oh Baby!" Beyoncé shouts while rubbing her baby bump on the set of her “Countdown” video, back in September. While holding up a copy of the New York Daily News featuring the preggers singer on the cover, Beyoncé reveals that she is six months pregnant at the time of shooting. The news suggests that, contrary to earlier reports of a February due date, Beyoncé and Jay-Z expect a December arrival.
"Hello, it’s Sept. 23. Oh baby! Oh baby! Oh baby! Oh baby! This was on the cover of the Daily News. Right now I’m actually shooting the video for ‘Countdown’ and I’m six months pregnant, pretending that my stomach is flat in body suits. But thank god you can’t really tell from the front, but when I turn to the side … Oh baby! Oh baby!" Bey’ says.
The Christmas baby news is a surprise to all. In early October, Australia’s Channel 7 Sunday Night Show reported that Queen B and Jay-Z were expecting their baby in February 2012.
Last month, auntie Kelly Rowland spilled the beans on the sex of the baby when talking to Bang Showbiz at the Cosmopolitan Ultimate Women of the Year Awards 2011, in London.
"I’m so happy for my sister and her husband. They’re so happy in this moment right now, as they should be. They’ve made a little bundle of love, I’m so excited for them," Rowland said. "I have no idea what I’m going to buy Beyoncé at the baby shower because Jay is going to buy that little girl every single thing possible. She won’t be spoiled but she will be very well looked-after."
“Progression as an artist is the most important thing. That is what success is for me. I always want to do something different from what I did in the past. I want to challenge myself, and the music industry. I want to have that nervous ball in my stomach before I go on stage. That’s how I know I’m doing the right job. And I feel it’s my job to set the tone and to be the example.”—
Beyonce from LIVE AT ROSELAND: Elements of 4 DVD Booklet
“I really focused on songs being classics. I focused on songs that would last and songs that I could sing when I’m 40 and songs that I could sing when I’m 60. I feel that it’s important that I start shaping my legacy and doing things that have a little more substance. I really want people to think when they listen to my music. I want them to feel more than, ‘Ok, I’m at a party, I’m dancing…’ I want it to be a conversation. I want it to help them through their painful moments, and their most happy moments.”—
Beyonce from LIVE AT ROSELAND: Elements of 4 DVD Booklet
“Some days I feel like a fashionista, some days I feel like the girl next door, some days I feel more conservative, some days I want to just be a queen, and it’s great because my job allows me even more of an excuse to go over the top.”—
Beyonce from LIVE AT ROSELAND: Elements of 4 DVD Booklet
“When I was younger I had a hard time setting boundaries, I have learned that it is no one else’s job to take care of me but me, and I have the right to have needs and standards in all aspects of my life.”—Beyonce from LIVE AT ROSELAND: Elements of 4 DVD Booklet
“Dance For You,” Beyoncé’s latest video to promote her album 4, debuted yesterday. The noir-influenced video—which features the venetian blinds, chiaroscuro lighting, and post-war costuming that go with the genre—depicts the singer as a femme fatale. She walks into a detective’s office, takes off her latex rain jacket, and commences a sultry dance, for some reason. (The detective doesn’t stop her to ask why. Would you?)
The video has been posted widely, but one detail in particular caught my eye: the reunion of Beyoncé with her favorite stage prop, the industrial fan. Beyoncé has a long history with her fans, which have kept her mane aflutter as early as her first single, “Crazy In Love” (the fan portion of the video—she almost appears to make love to it—begins around the 2:56 mark). For a London party in 2009, the star even reportedly requested that a large fan be positioned near her face, to keep her hair blowing, at all times:
The 28-year-old singer had hired a nightspot in London to party with the crew and dancers from her ‘I Am Sasha Fierce’ world tour and stunned event organisers with her bizarre request, reported Contactmusic.
"Beyonce arrived at about midnight with a massive entourage. On her table, alongside huge treasure chest cocktails, she had a big industrial fan which remained just inches from her face to keep her hair blowing everywhere …” said a source.
I would expect nothing less of the diva, who is not shy about her own showmanship. (The new video contains at least seven fans, an appropriately extravagant number.) Perhaps my favorite moment from one of her recent Roseland Ballroom shows was when a roadie walked out to Beyoncé’s mark, before the show, to test her fan. With instant Beyoncé hair, the stagehand looked fabulous.
2011 Soul Train Awards: Rihanna, Beyonce, Chris Brown and Nicki Minaj Win
his year’s Soul Train Awards, which was taped on November 17 at the Fox Theater in Atlanta, GA, was finally aired last Sunday, November 27 on BET. Among the lucky musicians who won that night were Rihanna, Beyonce Knowles, Chris Brown and Nicki Minaj.
Riri won Best Caribbean Performance, thanks to her single “Man Down”. The Barbados singer, however, had to give up her chance to win Best Dance Performance. She lost it to Beyonce who additionally beat Breezy,Kelly Rowland, Mary Mary and Keri Hilson.
As for Minaj, the rapstress only got one nod, but she managed to sweep it clean. Her Drake-assisted single “Moment For Life” came out victorious against Breezy’s “Look at Me Now”, Kanye’s “All of the Lights”, Jay-Z & Kanye’s “Otis”, and Lupe Fiasco's “Out of My Head”.
Beside handing awards, the event also paid homage to Heavy D. The late rapper was remembered by his close pals Naughty by Nature, Doug E. Fresh, Kurtis Blow and Goodie Mob. “We got nothing but love for you, Heavy!” they said at the end of the tribute.
Before the show was kicked off, there was a story about Keri Hilson refusing to give a shout-out to a magazine which put Beyonce and her husband Jay-Z on its cover. This added fuel to the long-running rumors suggesting that there’s bad blood between the two female artists.
"Yeah, who’s that," Keri said on the red carpet when being presented with the magazine featuring Queen Bey on the front page. Wearing a vertical asymmetrical, Cobra Rolled Kimono Sleeve Hi Lo, dress by Aqua, she politely declined the request later on, "No, I can’t do that I’m sorry."