Gig review: Beyonce at the Stadium of Light, Sunderland
The Renaissance World Tour has hit Wearside with the weight of a cruise missile; an intercontinental detonation of sequinned dance fever.
In the era of the live pop spectacular, the American superstar is among the form's most celebrated devotees. Her productions are less crowd-pleaser concerts than militantly choreographed performance art; she does not play live gigs so much as she produces live shows, each successive jaunt more eye-popping than the last in its sensory abandon.
This first solo tour in seven years is a bullish confection, though not without something of a puzzled chip on its shoulder.
After the monolithic spectacle of 2016's The Formation World Tour, this eight-act, two-and-a-half-hour tour-de-force is just as retina-scorching, but also tinged with a curious indifference for the success it is built upon.
So many gold-plated hits – Halo, Irreplaceable, Drunk in Love – are glaring absences amid an unabashed love-letter to Black culture, LGBTQ+ kinship and seventies-tinged epicureanism; on paper, it is a gamble for unneeded history amid maximalist theatre.
Mostly though, it is a no-loss pay-off; after a stripped-down salvo of skyscraper ballads, Beyoncé proceeds to club her crowd with the proverbial mirrorball into a state of good-time submission.
Heavily drawing on last year's Renaissance, she interpolates everything together with the sweaty air of a Studio 54 megamix, burnished by her terrific voice. Immaculately cued up by a crack band, dancers swarm the stage for athletically impressive interludes; lunar rovers, clamshell sofas, and flying crystalline horses all abound in an eye-watering extravaganza.
Those missing favourites are ultimately ripples, with enough salad days singles – Run the World (Girls), Love on Top, Crazy in Love – given a tip of the hat throughout.
But from the sci-fi swirl of Alien Superstar through Break My Soul's house-heavy jam, this show is more fascinated with charting the link back across the decades, through snatches of Robin S., and Donna Summer.
As closer Summer Renaissance channels the latter's I Feel Love into a delirious disco finale, any last doubts are mostly drowned out.
Beyoncé knows her own legacy; even if it feels shortchanged at the expense of her musical forefathers now and again, that glittery sonic boom makes it worth in the end.