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"We say to girls 'you can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful, but not too successful, otherwise you will threaten the man.'" The words of Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche ring around the O2 Arena just two songs in to Beyoncé's show, giving a clear indication that this is not going to be your standard night out in a corporate arena.
What follows is an almighty production, with Beyoncé backed by what seems more like an army than a band, such is their ferocity. The vibrancy and versatility of what has been billed as the Mrs. Carter Show takes the evening above and beyond what anybody should expect from a performer. Broken up by stunning visuals, Beyoncé veers with such ease from the erotic, funky stomp of 'Partition' to the refined balladry of '1+1'. What we are seeing tonight is a performer with no limitations, so it would be madness of her detractors to continue to dismiss her.
Such is the power of Beyoncé's back catalogue, particularly with such a thrilling new album to showcase, the omissions from tonight's set are telling, yet now seem unsurprising. No room for 'If I Were A Boy', 'Crazy In Love' is reduced to a brief minute, tossed on as an afterthought to a rousing rendition of 'Single Ladies'. And what of Destiny's Child? Not even a medley of their greatest hits. We're beyond that now.
With the crowd almost as loud as her all-female band for the entirety of the evening, the screams reach a hysterical point as Jay-Z arrives on stage for his brief cameo in the recent hit single 'Drunk In Love'. Yes, it's a great song, and whilst it's a beautiful moment to see the crowd respond to what is undoubtedly music's number one power couple in action, his lyrical content is beyond questionable and largely at odds with Beyoncé's message of equality and female empowerment. Do we really need to hear eat the cake, Anna Mae?
Moving out to a second stage in the middle of the crowd towards the end of the show, 'Heaven' proves to be a real highlight of the evening a raw, emotional moment which reveals a humanity beyond the drama and precision of such a slick production, perfectly capturing why it is so easy to relate to Beyoncé, as opposed to other megastars of her ilk. Following on from this comes a finale of sheer euphoria, with 'XO' and 'Halo' both eliciting mass sing-alongs from the adoring crowd.
So how do Adiche's words at the beginning of the night relate to this performance? Yes, Beyoncé quite clearly has ambition, she's beyond successful and not only is she a threat to the man, but to every single one of her peers, for with the Mrs. Carter Show, she has raised the bar to unreachable levels. The game is over.