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Concert Reviews:
Beyonce gets crazy in love with Detroit -- and vice-versa -- at The Palace

@graffonmusic, Facebook.com/Gary Graff on Music

Posted: Sunday, July 21, 2013

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AUBURN HILLS -- Everybody says they love Detroit when they play around here. But Beyonce wasn't merely paying show biz lip services when she said "I love this city" on Saturday night, July 20, at The Palace.

Early on in her nearly two-hour show, the multi-platinum pop diva added a version of the Sam Cooke spiritual "A Change is Gonna Come" to the set, accompanied by a Detroit video montage that included key sites as well as key personalities from boxer Joe Louis to music icons such as Bob Seger, Kid Rock, Eminem, the White Stripes and a full array of Motown legends. The song ended with the video declaration that "Nothing Stops Detroit!"

'Nuf said.

And it wasn't like Beyonce -- who skied into town Saturday after attending a Trayvon Martin rally earlier in the day with her husband, rapper Jay Z, in New York -- needed to shill for the Motor City crowd's support. It was clearly hooked when it scooped up all the tickets as they went on sale earlier in the year, and the high-volume response even to Beyonce's image appearing on the video screens before the show started indicated she would have them at "hello."

But her "Mrs. Carter Show" delivered the most fully conceived exposition of the former Destiny's Child's solo career so far, a crisp and tightly executed spectacle that managed to dazzle without going completely over the top. The 22 songs -- drawn primarily from Beyonce's last two albums, 2008's "I Am...Sasha Fierce" and 2011's "4" -- were dressed up with plenty of slick ensemble choreography, high-concept video segues, flashy staging, pyrotechnics and costuming (10 different outfits during the show), but never at the expense of the songs themselves or the human focus of the performance.

Fronting the 11-member all-female Suga Mama band and surrounded by 10 dancers (just two of them male), Beyonce came out swinging with a punchy "Run the World (Girls)" and a funky "End of Time" before softening her tone on "Flaws and All." Each song was treated as its own fully-conceived moment, but particular highlights included a mash-up of her "If I Were a Boy" with The Verve's "Bitter Sweet Symphony," the a capella openings of "Get Me Bodied" and a bit of Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" before the encore of "Halo," a kinetic pairing of "Freakum Dress" and "I Care" that spotlighted guitarist Bibi McGill and a remix-style arrangement of "Baby Boy."

After writhing atop a grand piano during "1+1" Beyonce flew through a cloud of glitter a second stage set up near the rear of The Palace floor for three songs that included a fierce "Love On Top" and her lone "Destiny's Child" song, "Survivor." Returning to the main stage, Beyonce finished with a take-no-prisoners tear through "Crazy In Love," "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)" (with a bit of "The Jefferson" TV theme "Movin' on Up" tossed in) and "Grown Woman," the latter accompanied by a shower of gold (of course) confetti.

In a somewhat self-serving late-show video about her accomplishments and ambitions, a Beyonce voice-over told us that at the end of her days she hoped to be able to say "I was here. I did. I've done." On Saturday at The Palace, at least, she certainly did more than was expected.

Beyonce's opener, newcomer Luke James, acquitted himself well, too, during his half-hour onstage, confidently showcasing the two singles he's released so far -- the Grammy Award-nominated, "I Want You" and "I.O.U." -- and covering portions of Michael Jackson's "The Way You Make Me Feel" and Marvin Gaye's "Keep on Dancing." He also made sure the crowd remembered his name with repeated mentions -- and even spelling out L-U-K-E at one point.

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