By Randall Roberts
Los Angeles Times
Drama and halftime shows: not your usual combo.
Beyonce, one of the world’s most popular singers, had something to prove.
Her integrity was at stake, and perhaps as many as 100 million people were measuring it with her.
Nearly two weeks ago, the singer offered a lauded delivery of “The Star-Spangled Banner” during President Barack Obama’s second inauguration. Millions watching on television saw her eyes light up, the veins in her neck turn to rope, her lips shape the words and her voice pour forth America’s anthem in perfect pitch. Afterward, she smiled proudly.
Then news gradually unfolded that she and the U.S. Marine Band hadn’t performed live but to a backing track, and the populace learned that it had not seen and heard what it thought it had: true talent showcasing her art live, commemorating what should be one of the most honest and open of American rituals with a true musical document of a moment in time.
Some said it didn’t matter Aretha Franklin came to her defense. Others thought it cowardly: A superstar’s responsibility is to prove she is up to the challenge or politely decline. To them, Beyonce’s lip-sync was a cop-out.
When artifice shattered the illusion, people noticed. She took center stage in New Orleans to shut everybody up. She did-at least those who doubted her skills as a live singer and a performer.
An action-packed, Vegas-style medley of the Houston-born vocalist’s many hits, both solo and as part of Destiny’s Child, Beyonce’s set-filled with fire, strobes, hologram-esque teams of Beyonce images dancing in a row-showcased a selection of independent-minded pop specifically choreographed to silence detractors.
The artist who dubbed herself Sasha Fierce made many musical arguments. None involved submitting to doubters. She played-and sang, live-her big ones, starting with one of the great pop songs of the 2000s, “Crazy in Love,” the track that established her not only as a singing force but also as an adept song-picker whose taste in producers is equaled by her skill at turning their tracks into her own hits. “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It),” “End of Time,” “Baby Boy”-each melded seamlessly with one another. She was joined onstage midset by her bandmates in Destiny’s Child for a quick run that included “Bootylicious.”
Perhaps the most important sound of her show, though, was unplanned.
As she danced and asked that the crowd clap along, her microphone hand made an audible thump. It was loud and obvious. And it proved something true: The mike was live, and our singer was too.