It seems nobody told Beyoncé that she was supposed to appear embattled on the first night of her latest arena stint in London.
The Amazonian Texan has been criticised so far this year for miming at Barack Obama’s inauguration ceremony, for holidaying in America’s enemy Cuba, for banning photographers from her shows lest she be caught gurning like a weightlifter, and worst of all, for naming this jaunt The Mrs Carter Show World Tour.
Using her rapper husband’s surname in the publicity is apparently an affront to feminists everywhere, from a 31-year-old who has previously called for all the women who are independent to throw their hands up at her. Yet in the endless high gloss video clips that accompanied her show she was not exactly seen surfing Mumsnet and making Jay-Z’s packed lunch.
No, she was a powder-faced Marie Antoinette, a lounging Cleopatra and an imperious Elizabeth I.
“I see the B-hive is in the house tonight,” she said after the first of many ovations from her overwhelmingly female audience. We drones knew there was only one queen in the vicinity.
She stomped on stage in a tiny white cheerleader’s outfit to the rattling beats of Run the World (Girls), and it was instantly clear that girls ran her stage. An 11-strong all-female band included a guitarist with fireworks sparking from her instrument and a punk-haired drummer whose arms were a blur. Even her dancing troupe, usually well populated with fan-pleasing beefcakes, included just two skinny men.
Splitting her show, like her four solo albums, between old-fashioned showboating ballads and sonically daring dance numbers, sometimes the distracting visuals were more welcome than others. She failed to convince when claiming that she is riddled with imperfections on the soppy Flaws and All. She was much more fun beneath a shower of fireworks on End of Time and shimmying among animated lions and elephants on the African-influenced new song Grown Woman.
Beside her arena pop rivals, she was not as cool and dirty as Rihanna, not as physical and funny as Pink, and not as weird as Lady Gaga. But she had a star wattage that was blinding, an ability to sing and dance and be mesmerising without the light beams and glitter cannons.
“Why don’t you love me, when I make me so damn easy to love?” she sang on Why Don’t You Love Me? Not a question that anyone here needed to answer.
Until May 5, O2 Arena, SE10 (0871 984 0002, theO2.co.uk)