ATLANTIC CITY, New Jersey — The "year of 4" continues.
Four months after giving birth to her first child — an arrival announced last August at the MTV VMAs — Beyoncé returned to the stage Saturday night, on the second of a four-night run in this East Coast resort city. And it was a spectacular fitting her rising icon status.
So what kinds of clues get 20somethings calling you "the greatest performer" of your generation? Well, it's in the details. For one, Revel, the sparkling, 6.3-million-square-foot beachfront destination that played host to Beyoncé's comeback, devoted a channel on its guest-room flat-screen TVs solely to B-related content: no weather broadcasts, nary a "Housewife" and no commercial breaks; just videos, all-star performances and more, all through Memorial Day weekend. It was evident in the distance traveled, too, with fans telling MTV News they'd made cross-country pilgrimages, while still others came from as far as Tokyo and South Africa to hail Queen B.
But those are just the hints, peripheral proof. The presence of First Lady Michelle Obama at last night's concert left little doubt that the little girl from Houston, who joined a girl group and then struck out on her own, had seen another benchmark in her relatively young career. After exchanging letters in recent months, with each calling the other a role model for girls, Obama turned up in a sleeveless green sheath waving like royalty from a balcony in Ovation Hall.
A little after 10 p.m., as the pounding opening march from "End of Time" kicked in, Beyoncé appeared in silhouette; the sequins were hard to make out but the wind-blown mane was impossible to miss. Finally, B, stunning in hot pink Stuart Weitzman heels and a beaded body suit, appeared on the massive stage backed by her dancers.
"Atlantic City, snap your fingers," she commanded, launching into "Love on Top." Without missing a step of the New Edition-inspired choreography, B powered through the song's modulations in an extended vocal showcase. Then she took an exaggerated pause, as if to catch her breath (or to bask in the adulation?), before belting out a final coda. The 30-year-old's comeback was officially under way.
Pushing through hits from her debut solo effort, including "Naughty Boy" and the dancehall-infused "Baby Boy," and Sasha Fierce smashes like "Diva," B defied all post-partum laws as she kept pace with Frank Gatson's acrobatic dance style. ("Y'all don't know how hard I had to work. I had to lose 60 pounds!" she laughed to the crowd later. "They had me eating lettuce.") And just as songs like "Single Ladies" and "Run the World (Girls)" are meant to serve as empowerment manuals for women, it became clear last night that Beyoncé's choreography is meant to do the same: a series of sensual quickstep moves that revolve around the hips and legs. It showed in the Fosse-style swing and formations on songs like "Get Me Bodied," and the strut-heavy footwork on "Freakum Dress."
"Sasha Fierce disappeared, but y'all bringing her back," B joked midway through the euphoric two-hour set.
For one of our favorite numbers, "Party," the 4 singer donned full-on showgirl regalia in a heady rendition that saw confetti coming from the roof and dice-shaped beach balls being tossed through the crowd as dancers in large feathered headdresses magically turned up in the aisles.
There were ballads, of course, at Ovation Hall, the more memorable among them a tribute to Whitney Houston and a cover of Lauryn Hill's classic "Ex Factor." And if Beyoncé reminded us of what we've lost in those gut-wrenching covers — she proved, too, that she's more than ready to carry the weight on her shoulders.
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