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Concert Reviews:
Beyonce brings an angry Formation to Ford Field

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Wednesday, June 15, 2016

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DETROIT -- They say hell hath no fury like...

And there’s no fury like the kind Beyonce delivered Tuesday night, June 14, at Ford Field, on the closing night of the first leg of her Formation World Tour.

The two-hour and 10-minute spectacle is, of course, fueled by “Lemonade,” the singer’s sixth solo album and a frank, revealing treatise on her marriage to and marital problems with rapper Jay Z. There’s an abundance of anger there, albeit with a guardedly hopeful resolution, and that emotion gave the Formation show its aggressive, forceful flavor -- to a fault.

With its sleek staging, dominated by a 60-foot-tall LED video cube, and kinetic, athletic choreography featuring up to 19 dancers, the concert had spots where it dazzled and channeled Beyonce’s palpable rage to stunning effect. That was particularly true at the start of the show, as Beyonce and company marched military style onto the stage, teasing their way into the staccato “Formation” before taking a ramp out to a satellite stage near the middle of the Ford Field floor. The energy stayed in high gear, too, during fierce performances of “Sorry,” “Bow Down,” “Run the World (Girls)” and a resonant pairing of the empowerment anthem “Mine” and the love song “Baby Boy.

The latter third of the show was strong, too, with Beyonce leading her troupe through buoyant presentations of “Crazy In Love” (the original, uptempo version after starting with the turgid 2014 remix), “Naughty Girl,” “Party” and “Blow.” During “Freedom,” “Survivor” and “End of Time,” meanwhile, Beyonce and her dancers splashed through a pool of water that was covered up on the second stage, much to the delight of the crowd if not security guards who donned clear rain ponchos.

The lengthy middle portion of the Formation show, however, was problematic. Lurching, formless and downtempo, it stalled the early momentum in its tracks and was never able to catch its own kind of fire. There were a few moments that rose above including a spunky “Daddy Lessons” from “Lemonade” and an emotive “1+1,” one of two songs Beyonce introduced as “my favorite song to sing every night (“Me, Myself & I”) was the other. And for a ferocious “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” the guitarist from Beyonce’s all-female band did a solid job of estimating Jack White’s performance on “Lemonade.” But those were well outnumbered by ill-advised remix style arrangements of other songs and long video interludes that offered extended footage from “Lemonade’s” companion film.

And while Beyonce’s performance of the late Prince’s “The Beautiful Ones” was moving, playing the original recording of his “Purple Rain” while she changed into one of the show’s six outfits -- none of which required an inordinate amount of material from designers Gucci, Galmain, Cavalli and DSquared2 -- felt pointless.

Despite that, the Ford Field crowd stayed with Beyonce throughout, and she repaid the dedication in kind, mentioning her family’s visit to the Motown Historical Museum earlier in the day and thanking Detroit “for creating such incredible music and opening the door for me.” Beyonce also dedicated the show-closing “Halo,” which she introduced as “a song about love,” to “all of the family members who lost family members in Florida.” Beyonce’s management also announced on online drive had raised more than $82,000 in fan donations for Flint water crisis relief.

Clearly, Beyonce knew how to open and close with maximum impact. But a little more consistency throughout would have helped the Formation make even more forward progress.

DJ Khaled, meanwhile, opened the night with a short but energetic set, spiced with a pair of special guests -- Detroit rapper Dej Loaf for “Try Me” and “Back Up,” and Khaled’s New Orleans homey Young Jeezy for renditions of “Who Dat” and “Out Here Grindin’.”

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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