“Destiny’s Child started when we were nine years old,” Beyonce Knowles told the crowd of several thousand at a private opening party for the new Morongo Casino, Resort and Spa in the desert near Palm Springs, California, Thursday. “We’ve been through a lot of trials and tribulations. If you’ve ever survived anything in your life . . .” Screaming fans drowned her out as she and her girls — Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams — launched into “Survivor,” one of the band’s signature tunes.
The song came near the end of a fifty-minute set, as the band prepares for a world tour next year to promote their recent release, Destiny Fulfilled. A massive, clear plastic tent held the stage where the Chairman of the Morongo Band of Indians first welcomed the invited crowd. “Thanks for being here to celebrate opening night for California’s answer to Las Vegas,” he said. And he wasn’t kidding: The resort looks and feels like Sin City, with its high-tech design, massive casino and restaurants from the N9NE Group, the people behind the clubs and restaurants at the Palms in Las Vegas.
The large stage featured a runway jutting out into the audience, and Beyonce used it well, repeatedly strutting her way to the front, where three large fans were in place to dramatically blow back her golden locks. Rowland and Williams stuck more to the main stage, where they were accompanied by a changing cast of male and female dancers as well as a five-piece band highlighted by an energetic drummer. Demonstrating serious vocal chops, the three singers traded lines and verses on several songs, frequently coming together in powerful harmonies, full-throated that shook the room.
“Say My Name” featured Beyonce on most of the lead vocals, with hip-shaking moves from the trio, which often struck poses reminiscent of another trio: Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu and Cameron Diaz in Charlie’s Angels. Each singer took a solo turn, Beyonce performing “Baby Boy,” Rowland opting for “Dilemma” and Williams using her segment for a gospel-flavored number.
“We’re gonna give you a Christmas present,” Williams said, introducing the a cappella “Opera of the Bells” from 8 Days of Christmas, another showcase for their vocal chops — and more than adequate proof that they were singing live. They didn’t ignore the new album, though, turning to “Cater 2 U,” “Soldier” and finally “Lose My Breath” for a funky finale.
The three members of Destiny’s Child made their initial appearance rising up behind a large white staircase at center stage, and they left the same way, walking to the top, striking a pose and then slowly disappearing behind the stairs.
Spotted in the crowd were ‘N Sync members Lance Bass and Chris Kirkpatrick, as well as rapper Won-G. They and the rest of the crowd were treated to a spectacular fireworks display before an after-party at Desert Rain, where the pyrotechnics continued late into the night with machines-spewing flames and lightening over the packed floor where dancers grooved to remixes of many of the evening’s earlier songs.