LONDON — After Beyoncé picked up a record five Grammys in 2004 for her debut solo album, Dangerously in Love, another Destiny's Child world tour seemed as likely as ... well, Justin Timberlake doing another tour with 'NSYNC.
But at the tail end of last year, the most successful female group in the world proved nonbelievers wrong by releasing its fifth album, Destiny Fulfilled. That said, the ballad-laden LP may well be DC's last as a collective for some time, as the girls plan to focus again on their solo careers.
With that in mind, the 20,000-strong crowd that came out to Earl's Court Arena on Friday night was happy to assist Beyoncé, Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams in ensuring their first U.K. show in three years — and unofficial send-off — was a crowd-pleaser from beginning to end.
The tightly packed arena was already buzzing a full two hours before the group actually graced the stage. Still, the R&B trio felt the need to build the anticipation further. Cue lights out so a video slideshow of all three members in their various individual guises could receive maximum effect.
As the video montage faded, the curtains parted and the opening chimes of "Say My Name" rang out. A handful of young girls left their seats and scurried toward the stage but were stopped short by a metal barricade. The lights came on to thunderous applause and the three young women — role models, fashion icons and sex symbols to millions the world over — began their night's work.
The stage set may have been little more than long colored strips of fabric, but the divas had the runway element locked down from the get-go, as a not-so-subtle wind machine ensured their finely coifed hair blew theatrically in the wind (not enough to distract from their sparkle-adorned stage outfits, though, which were so fitted the ladies could quite possibly have been sewn into them).
Beyoncé's gold pants, scooped-neck vest and heavy jewelry, Kelly's red pleated mini dress and Michelle's purple pants and stomach-baring shirt were all topped off with the perfect accessory: a sheer flowing cape in their individual colors. Later, "Chicago" seemed to be the inspiration when the ladies went all 1920s showgirl, performing a writhing routine using three white chairs as props, for the anthem "Independent Women, Pt. 1."
Yet another look found DC decked out in tight silver-studded leather for "Soldier" — perhaps not what the crowd expected, but for anyone not swayed by the Mad Max-inspired look, Beyoncé was out to prove that you don't need baggy jeans and a bandanna to be street. Striking her meanest arms-crossed b-girl pose, she pulled her fur-trimmed hood down over her face to boldly confess what everyone on the planet already knows: that she "likes them boys up top from the BK" (well, one lucky one in particular anyway). These and the many other couture costumes worn throughout the night served as a bit of a fashion show, debuting glimpses of Beyoncé and mother Tina Knowles' House of Dereon clothing line, due in stores this fall.
Given the impressive list of individual achievements each lady boasts — Grammys, Broadway shows, box-office success, lucrative cosmetic deals, etc. — it's no surprise each member got a chance to do her own thing. First up was Kelly, who was introduced as "the delectable, delicious and defiant Miss Kelly Rowland." Rocking a glittery silver cocktail frock (playing nicely against the pure purple stage backdrop), she served up her Grammy-winning "Dilemma" (sans Nelly, but with plenty of help from the audience).
Next, the curtain revealed Michelle standing on top of a high-rise podium dressed in a peach sequined ball gown. She belted out her gospel hit, "Do You Know," which seemed unfamiliar to most in the crowd but was wildly appreciated nonetheless.
Finally, the sound of African drums signaled the arrival of Destiny's star child as Beyoncé took the stage, clad in a white string cutaway top and skirt and flanked by a procession of male and female dancers. Carrying an umbrella over her head, she had her Egyptian walk down perfect as she carefully followed the group up a glass staircase.
Perfectly choreographed renditions of "Baby Boy" and "Naughty Girl" followed. On the former she stepped out of her comfort zone to try out some Jamaican yard-style call-and-response with the crowd, including a charged cry of "Bloop, bloop, bloop!" that caused her to burst out laughing.
After all that energy, it was only right to slow things down. "This next song is dedicated to the fans," Kelly declared as she and her two bandmates emerged draped in clingy, floor-skimming, electric-blue silk evening dresses for "Cater 2 U." They borrowed the "Sex and the City" theme for the "Girl" video, but they lean more toward "Girlfriends" when taking it on the road, with a light comedy moment that may see TV execs thinking seriously about a Destiny's Child sitcom.
Videotaped hijinks and at least one more Beyoncé solo hit, "Crazy in Love," followed, but the rest of the night focused on selected tracks from DC's latest album. The encore of "Lose My Breath" was a casual affair: baggy jeans, chunky gold belts, white tees and bare feet. It was like watching three young girls and their friends practicing their moves at a slumber party.
It was a perfect note of DC harmony to end a night that celebrated both the group and the individuals within it.
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