We Got The Beat
What happens to Beyoncé in Vegas does not stay in Vegas
Beyoncé, “I Am… Yours: An Intimate Performance at Wynn Las Vegas” (Music World Music/Columbia)
If this were any other town the competition for new album of the week might be a toss-up between Rihanna’s “Rated R,” Shakira’s “She-Wolf” or Adam Lambert’s “For Your Entertainment. ” Classic rock fans might head for Bon Jovi’s latest, “The Circle,” while those with a love of the theater might be intrigued by Susan Boyle’s debut, “I Dreamed A Dream.”
In Houston, however, all of those take a back seat to a new release by homegrown soul princess, Beyoncé.
Her new concert album, “I Am… Yours: An Intimate Performance at Wynn Las Vegas,” doesn’t feature many songs that fans of her years with Destiny’s Child and her more recent solo albums haven’t already heard. But they haven't heard them like this. The impassioned, spontaneous, note-perfect offerings between personal, worldly and well-spoken interludes on this intimate stage in the City of Sin are what makes this set (available as a 2CD/1 DVD package) worth owning.
Recorded last summer during the “I Am… Tour” in support of her last studio album, “I Am… Sasha Fierce,” the four-night residency in the Encore Theater at Wynn Las Vegas was unlike any other shows on the tour. The big arena stage was stripped down to fit a cozy, 1,500 capacity room and music was reworked into mostly acoustic arrangements. Instead of dancing, dramatic costume changes and contraptions that allow Beyoncé to fly over the audience, these shows focused on her voice.
It’s a perfect example of less being much, much more.
Opening with a wind-blown first verse of “Halo,” with an all-female backing band, Suga Mama, bringing the gospel-pop song to a crescendo on the chorus, Beyoncé looks a bit nervous and excited about the repackaged set. During the pseudo-disco “Sweet Dreams” she works early solo dance hit “Dangerously In Love” and a cover of Anita Baker’s rapturous “Sweet Love” into an interlinking mix. For “That’s Why You’re Beautiful” (a nearly forgotten gem from “I Am… Sasha Fierce” that Beyoncé had not song live until the Las Vegas shows) she turns Prince’s lusty “The Beautiful Ones,” into something almost pure.
What makes this concert album and video more intriguing than some of her numerous past live releases (this is her third since leaving Destiny’s Child to go solo, which seems like overkill), is a set list that not only outlines Beyoncé’s life in music, but clearly makes her future intentions known. Candy-swirled chart-toppers she once sang with Destiny’s Child in her youth are glossed over in a medley that almost feels begrudgingly delivered.
Even a old hip-hop number “’03 Bonnie & Clyde” feels out of place with the more melodic and understated tone of the rest of the set. If the song didn’t hold a special place in her heart as a single that brought her and husband Jay-Z together, I doubt it would be included at all.
Where Beyoncé’s musical heart lies now and where she is putting forth the most effort is the complicated balladry and story arc of “If I Were A Boy,” and the smart, strong dance beats of “I Am… Yours” grand finale, “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It).”
The best measure of success is that after seeing this show, I'm anxious to see what’s next.
But don’t take my word for it: If you’d like a sample of this show before laying down hard-earned money for “I Am… Yours,” watch Beyoncé’s hour-long prime time Thanksgiving special, 8 p.m. Thursday on Channel 13 as it draws material from the same concert.