Concert review: Beyonce gives energized performance at 1st Mariner Arena

Baltimore Sun reporter John-John Williams IV was at Beyonce's concert at 1st Mariner Arena last night. Here's a link to a photo gallery from the show. And here are John-John's thoughts:

Throngs of buppies dressed in designer dresses and spiked stilettos crowded First Mariner Arena last night in support of the woman they call Diva, Sasha Fierce, B or more commonly, Beyonce.

Whatever moniker you chose, the former Destiny's Child front-woman delivered an energy-filled two and a half hour performance on this leg of her 'I Am ... Tour' that left her fans thoroughly content.

The minute she appeared on stage in a sparkling mini dress, all eyes were on her. When the stunning singer belted out an a Capella version of her 2006 hit "Deja Vu," the audience hung on every word.

Beyonce is a seasoned pro, and she knows it. Her costume changes -- there were about eight of them -- were perfectly timed and almost seemed seamless. She also plays to her strengths: vocals, dancing and showmanship ...

My only fault with her concert -- if there was one -- was her choice in some of her outfits. (I would have rethought the fluffy wedding dress; the leopard-skin leotard underneath the gold and silver body armor reminded me of a mix of the '80s cartoons She-Ray and ThunderCats.) But aside from that she kept the audience energized and empowered.

Beyonce spent most of the evening channeling historic icons of the past. There was Etta James, when Beyonce sang her rendition of "At Last." (She also sang the song to the Obamas during the inauguration.)


You could feel the energy of Tina Turner when Beyonce performed a series of older Destiny's Child songs in a second stage, located in the middle of the audience, midway through the concert. Beyonce even branched out and put her own spin on Alanis Morissette's angry "You Oughta Know," easily outsinging the Canadian songstress. She also captured the gentleness of Sarah McLachlan when she sang the 90s hit "Angel."

But make no mistake, this concert was very much a Beyonce production. From her unmistakable riffs to her trademark shaking, Beyonce delivered one recognizable hit after another. There was also a sprinkling in of material from her latest album "I Am ... Sasha Fierce," which I have to admit I am not completely crazy about. In fact, other than the mega smash "Single Ladies" and hits "Halo" and "Diva," I was relieved when she finished up the less recognizable, slower ballads from her most current album.

Beyonce's background dancers were pretty impressive and versatile. From the dance that accompanied Beyonce singing "Ava Maria," to the hip-hop dance-off they did to a mix of Destiny's Child hits, they really kept the crowd entertained.

Getting back to the main attraction, Beyonce connected with her largely female audience when she sang of heartache and independence in the 2003 hit "Me, Myself and I." And she showed she is among the elite songstresses of her time with the power ballad "Listen" from the 2006 movie Dreamgirls.  

In a time when spaghetti-string vocalists who can barely master choreography (hello, Britney Spears) can sell out concerts, and bimbos like Paris Hilton and Heidi Montag can get the green light to record an album, it is refreshing to see Beyonce give you the total package.

(Baltimore Sun photo by Kenneth K. Lam)