REVIEW: Beyoncé, Stadium of Light, Sunderland

Beyonce at the Stadium of Light tonight
Beyonce at the Stadium of Light tonight
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Who runs the world? Beyoncé, seemingly, after a foot-stompin, booty-shaking, hair-flicking performance at the Stadium of Light.

A sell-out crowd of around 52,000 came to bow down to Queen Bey and she rewarded her Beyhive with a slick show that proves why she wears the chart-topper crown bling.

Beyonce opening her set in Sunderland

Beyonce opening her set in Sunderland

She emerged onto one of the biggest sets I've seen at the home of the Black Cats with tour title track Formation, with the woman everyone had been waiting for clad in black lace tights and an over-sized hat. The crowd, who'd been waiting for 45 minutes after her estimated arrival, responded in rapture.

Because when Beyoncé tells y’all to get in formation, even when you've been waiting in the rain, you darn well do it. This is a performer who does more than just keep "hot sauce in her bag," she unleashes it on her audience with every fierce flick of her hair and dip of her famous derriere.

Last time I saw the singer live was in the Crazy in Love days. Back then, she was a purveyor of girl power pop with a catchy chorus. It was all “Uh oh, uh oh, uh oh, oh no no” and “In the closet that’s my stuff. Yes, if I bought it, please don’t touch.”

There's no please and thank yous in her latest album, however. Lemonade has a darker edge than her earlier material and takes an unashamedly political stance in a post Hurricane Katrina landscape. Gothic costumes that hark back to the Deep South merge with Malcolm X-infused dance moves executed with military precision by her army of back up dancers. It’s a powerful message of black womanhood, delivered with huge power.

Beyonce in Sunderland

Beyonce in Sunderland

Whereas her earlier tracks were aimed at every woman who’s ever had man troubles - and let’s face it, who hasn’t - her new tracks seem more deeply personal and reference her cultural identity growing up in Houston - “My daddy Alabama, momma Louisiana” she snarls with defiance in tour title track, Formation. Meanwhile, Freedom, featuring Kendrick Lamar, is a rallying call for cutting chains loose and not quitting. It was performed towards the end of the show in a pool of water as a bare foot Beyoncé, thrashes the stage in a barely-there leotard,

And what of Jay Z? Did he or didn't he cheat? Is Lemonade a revenge album? Was he in the wings tonight waiting for the missus to finish work? And just who is "Becky with the good hair?" None of her fans know for sure, but her rapper husband seems to be very much still her 'boo' as scenes of their marriage and the birth of Blue Ivy flashed on a humongous LED screen that towered into the night sky.

Fans of her less-political days weren't disappointed. She emerged in red PVC boots, leotard and fur to relive the iconic swagger and strut of Crazy in Love, performed as a medley with Destiny's Child throwback Bootyliscious and solo track Naughty Girl. A shame, however, that these were only 30 second snippets of the hits that helped make her name. And, why no Single Ladies? They're great tracks worthy of being performed in their entirety. Same too of the Prince tribute. Though the stage was bathed in purple light for an instrumental, it would have had even more oomphh had Beyoncé, performed Purple Rain herself, she certainly has the range to pull off such a feat.

But then she has been performing her hits for a long time. "Most of you guys met me 19 years ago in Destiny's Child and I feel blessed to be still on stage doing what I love. It wouldn't be possible without you," she said in her sweet Southern drawl delivered with her megawatt smile. More recent songs, Drunk In Love and Run the World (Girls), were given more focus and had the sea of poncho-clad fans attempting to dance along.

The Stadium of Light last night

The Stadium of Light last night

Meanwhile, power ballad Halo sounded as pitch-perfect as it does when you listen to it at home. She may have been a dot on stage, but her unrivalled stage presence loomed large as fireworks shot up behind her.

She's a megastar of few words: she lets her music and choreography speak for itself. But when she did speak, she purred. "Did any of you guys possibly wake up looking this good this morning, if you woke up like this I want you to show me," she asked during Flawless. I'm not sure anyone wakes up quite like Beyoncé

There's not many solo female performers who've been able to command the Stadium of Light stage. Pink didn't sell as well as expected and Rihanna's provocative show was met with mixed reviews. But Beyoncé, is a star who performed full pelt with high-octane dance moves matched with soaring vocals.

When life gave her lemons, Beyoncé didn't just make lemonade, she tore up the recipe book, stamped on it in sky scraper heels and whipped up her own brand of effervescent elixir that fizzes with ferocity.

Photo by Dan Hodgson

Photo by Dan Hodgson

Flat pop is dead, all hail Queen Bey.