What more appropriate way to welcome the storm known as Beyonce than with rumbles of thunder so severe it rattled rib cages and caused skin vibrations?
On the third date of her three-month long “Formation World Tour,” the Queen Bey made an Atlanta entrance befitting her status as R&B royalty, marching onto the stage with her black-hat-clad posse in “Formation” and immediately hitting the gyration button.
“I know I’m gonna have a good ol’ time tonight,” she told the sold-out Georgia Dome crowd that included nearly every significant Atlanta hip-hop star – T.I., Ludacris, 2 Chainz, Rick Ross (some of whom performed during DJ Khaled’s opening set) – as well as heavyweights Usher, Jermaine Dupri and Diddy.
While the two-hour show wasn’t flawless from an audio standpoint – “Bow Down” and “Run the World (Girls)” were flooded with so much bass, it didn’t matter how many times Beyonce galloped in place, teasingly edged toward the front of the stage or blinked prettily under glitter-shadowed eyes, they were painful to endure – she has designed a production that manages to be simultaneously sleek and gargantuan.
Not many solo performers can handle a stadium stage – and last year’s Taylor Swift outing was the rare example since Madonna in her heyday of a female star doing it so adroitly – but Beyonce, 34, has matured into a captivating performer.
The focal point in this Beyonce theme park is a rotating mega-cube that blasted glamorous videos of the star (except for the shot of a razor across a lip – yowch!) during a handful of costume changes. Those exits also allowed her trio of fierce female band members, otherwise tucked into a corner of the stage, a few minutes in the spotlight. A wall of speakers that looked like a vault of safety deposit boxes curved behind the cube, ensuring super-stadium sound that might have been cramped under the Dome’s roof.
Beyonce and her dance troupe frequently strutted down a lengthy catwalk to a secondary stage at the back of the floor, grinning through a snippet of her song with Nicki Minaj, “Feeling Myself,” and making dramatic eye contact with fans during the hazy “Drunk in Love.” In between were plenty of her Janet Jackson-inspired military formation dance moves and enough hip swiveling to make you wonder what Jay Z could have possibly been thinking if the songs on her just-released “Lemonade” album are indeed autobiographical.
While Beyonce wasn’t overly chatty with the crowd, she did graciously thank her fans several times.
“I’m very grateful to be able to do what I love for so long she said,” clasping her gold microphone and beaming.
She reached back to her first solo album with “Me, Myself and I,” and prefaced it with a message of empowerment for her adoring female fans.
“Ladies,” she said, “I want y’all to know that God lives inside of all of us…you always have yourself.”
During the power ballad, Beyonce finally unleashed the gospel bellow we all know she’s capable of, but shows far too frequently these days.
Speaking of, she cherry-picked a few tracks from “Lemonade,” inserting bits of “6 Inch” and “Don’t Hurt Yourself” (before taking a metallic throne under a red-light-drenched stage for 2006’s “Ring the Alarm”) and swinging her hips down the catwalk during “Daddy Lessons.”
Some may have been disappointed in her Prince tribute, during which the stage was turned purple as his version of “Purple Rain” echoed through the venue (considering Beyonce’s formidable pipes, it would have been more fulfilling to hear her sing one of his songs).
But Beyonce certainly matched all expectations with her most effective vocal of the night, the riveting “1+1,” which she performed on her knees center stage, shrouded in elegant lighting.
She and her girls donned red leather for a dreamy, slow-burn take on “Crazy in Love” (the “50 Shades of Grey” soundtrack rendition). But relax, the groove-shaking version arrived soon enough as Beyonce and her dancers skated down a moving catwalk.
A sassy mashup of “Bootylicious” and “Naughty Girl” followed – with Beyonce emphasizing Donna Summer’s “Love to Love You Baby” sample – before she headed into the home stretch of a generous set list (three dozen songs, many of them fully intact) and streams of pyro popped behind the stage for “Halo.”
In recent years, Beyonce has become an impressive marketing master: The surprise album(s), the Coldplay-who? Super Bowl appearance, the almost uncomfortably candid songs. Watching her command a stadium stage for two hours was another reminder of her limitless ambition.