Beyonce: The Greatest Show on Earth

Years from now, I’ll be able to tell my grandkids I was at the Beyonce concert on Friday, December 13, 2013–the day she secretly released a surprise “visual” album containing 14 songs and 17 videos and sold more than 430,000 copies in just one day.

Okay, so maybe I won’t tell them all of that. Nonetheless, attending the Mrs. Carter World Tour in Chicago on the same day the singer released her fifth album was pretty special. This was my second time seeing the pop star perform live and, let me tell you, there is a reason Beyonce is called the hardest working woman in show business.

For nearly two hours, she entertained and enthralled a sold-out crowd at the United Center. She started her set with “Run the World (Girls)” and segued into the crowd-favorite “End of Time,” also from her last album, 4. Throughout the set, Beyonce delighted her fans with her greatest hits, many including call-and-answer crowd participation, such as “Get Me Bodied” and “Irreplaceable.”

But the live performances didn’t always follow the album versions. For example, Beyonce used interpolations of The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony” while singing “If I Were a Boy,” which gave the song an unexpected rock-and-roll vibe.

By now, everyone knows that Beyonce tours with an all-female band (can you say girl power?); three lovely backup singers known as The Mamas; and a multicultural gaggle of backup dancers, including the only two men on tour–Les Twins.

Just as amazing as the set and choreography were the costumes…and there were a lot of them! During “Freakum Dress,” the singer and her backup dancers wore long, flow-y gowns, which just proves sometimes less isn’t always more.

A little more than halfway through the show, Beyonce literally flew over the crowd to the back of the arena to sing “Irreplaceable,” “Survivor” and “Love on Top,” during which a couple in the crowd got engaged. Aww!

Later, back on the main stage, Beyonce treated the crowd to the first-ever performance of “XO,” a song from her self-titled album, released earlier that day. While I wish she’d performed more songs from her new album, the Mrs. Carter Tour was a nice trip down memory lane–a nonstop dance party from beginning to end with a few ballads thrown in to the mix.

It’s very clear (because Beyonce only performed one new song) that she could sell out arenas worldwide based on her previous work alone…and her loyal Beyhive would be just as happy. Move over, Madonna, there is a new Queen of Pop…and she goes by Queen Bey.