It’s chucking it down, Beyonce is 20 minutes later than advertised, and there’s a faint chorus of boos to be heard every time there’s a gap in between the songs being played over the speakers as soggy V-goers voice their displeasure. It’s funny how quickly this all forgotten when the lights go out, and an onstage screen starts showing Bey as a Geisha/Elizabeth I hybrid – the Mrs. Carter Show has begun, and in a hail of flames and spotlights, here she is, and her all-female bands strike up, rather appropriately, ‘Girls (Run The World)‘ to begin. It’s a hypnotic start, and when Beyonce enquires “Are y’all ready to dance?!”, the roar in the affirmative suggests we’re in for a special night. However, going against the festival headliners’ rulebook and not just playing the hits, even with the intriguingly confessional lyrics of the album songs she includes (“I’m a train wreck in the morning”‘, for example), tests the patience of the crowd, as do the short films that run on screens every couple of songs, which may add to the spectacle in an arena, but here they slow the momentum, and it’s testament to Beyonce‘s charisma as a performer that people don’t seem to lose interest on any particularly large scale.
The big songs are worth waiting for, with ‘If I Were A Boy’ taking in the strings from ‘Bittersweet Symphony‘, ‘Why Don’t You Love Me‘ see’s some trademark James Brown song-stopping and bits from Lenny Kravitz and Baauer‘s ‘Harlem Shake‘ and ‘Baby Boy‘s dancehall via Mumbai rush sounding bigger than ever. Into the home straight, the first half of ‘Irreplaceable‘ is sung by the crowd before Bey takes charge, while fingers are clicking across Chelmsford for ‘Love On Top‘. A countdown then appears on screen – it’s obvious what song she’s going to do now, right? Think again, its a seismic sing-along to ‘Crazy In Love‘, but don’t think you can go back to your tent just yet. “The show ain’t over” deadpans Bey, shooting straight into the call and response frenzy of ‘Single Ladies‘ before ‘Halo‘, complete with a slice of ‘I Will Always Love You‘ in tribute to Whitney Houston finishes things.
Even with all the extra production, tonight’s show lacked the shock and awe start of her electrifying Glastonbury show from two years ago, but in placing most of the biggest songs towards the end, Bey also managed to avoid the mid-song slump that set also had, even if those films did their best to bring one on. Once things got going though it was never less than excellent.
Check out our full V Festival 2013 coverage here.