The Beyoncé Standard – that gem-encrusted, gravity-defying, chord-contorting distinction borne from and perfected by the lips, hips and inimitable stage presence of the megawatt diva – was ever-present at the Barclays Center last night for the penultimate show of the Brooklyn stopover on the Mrs. Carter Show World Tour. As Beyoncé wraps up at home before crossing hemispheres for the Latin American and Australian legs of the trek this fall, she continues to somehow scale new heights over the course of a volatile, two-hour extravaganza.
She bent over backwards – literally – without warbling a wrong note while lounging atop a piano during “1+1.” She flew from the main stage to the middle of GA to grasp the outstretched hands of the crowd for “Irreplaceable” and “Love on Top.” She went toe-to-toe with guitarist Bibi McGill, who not only roared through “Freakum Dress” but seamlessly worked a Kravitz nod into “Why Don’t You Love Me?” with a perfectly mashed-up “Are You Gonna Go My Way?” riff. She lathered the brassy, jazzy breakdown of “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” into a proper frenzy in the name of the Dirty South. She entranced the room with a segue from “I Will Always Love You” into “Halo” for the grand finale in a moment that could only be called spiritual.
“Bow Down” didn’t make the set list, presumably because it would’ve been redundant at that point. The Barclays Center did kneel at the altar of Mrs. Carter with every perfect chorus. And though “Crazy in Love” was a high point for its beautiful explosions and impenetrable beats, one couldn’t help but feel weirdly jilted at the end of it: Where was Mr. Carter during the incendiary show-stopper? (We were, after all, sitting in the House That Jay Built.)
Special guests at Barclays are par for the course — Jay and Bey shared a moment on that stage when she swung through for the finale of his eight-night run back in October for “Diva” and “Crazy in Love” — but Hov never took the stage (because he was actually onstage elsewhere, performing in Pennsylvania alongside Justin Timberlake on the duo’s Legends of the Summer tour). “Survivor” made an appearance in the latter half of the evening, and the mere thought of Kelly and Michelle emerging from the arena floorboards as they did at the Super Bowl earlier this year was exciting enough. Hell, Questlove was in the audience last night – he could’ve had a drum-off with Kim Thompson.
It’s not like Beyoncé needs the support – the virtuosity of her voice and the grandiosity of her live show make that perfectly plain. And her guest-free turn on one of New York’s grandest new stages proved the point: pop shows will always have costume changes and elaborate sets. But only one diva could take us from “Countdown” to “End of Time” with perfect, pristine power.