I am so glad that I live in the age of Beyonce. Being present at her spectacular Mrs Carter show in London (even if she was just a tiny speck on the stage from my seat way up in the rafters of the O2) was an unforgettable experience. Other eras have their own divas and each is special in their own way, but I count myself very lucky to have been able to witness this one-woman powerhouse in all her glory.
The woman is incredible. For two solid hours she danced, sang (that voice, at turns so sweet and pure it was almost painful, then raw and husky) and communicated with the vast crowd, making them feel like there was nowhere else in the world she would rather be than right there entertaining them.
The crowd was an amazing mix of tiny little girls, young women and middle aged ladies, all on the verge of hysteria from the moment they emerged from North Greenwich tube.
From the moment the shuddering bass of Run The World (Girls) kicked in, Queen Bey had the crowd in the palm of her hand. With her all-ladies band, sassy backing singers (The Mamas) and beautiful dancers she brought new energy to classics like Crazy in Love, If I Were a Boy (mashed up with Bittersweet Symphony) and Survivor (wooo Destiny's Child!), newer numbers like Love On Top and Why Don't You Love Me and the brand new Grown Woman (one of my favourites, plus the costumes in this section were awesome.)
She floated across the arena on a zip wire, sang from the centre of gigantic feather fans and writhed about on top of a grand piano in a sapphire sequinned catsuit - this was serious, old-school showbiz, no post-modern irony or cynicism, just MAXIMUM JAZZINESS.
Songs were interspersed with short films using bits from her music videos and funky little vignettes featuring our heroine. So we had Beyonce as Marie Antoinette, complete with powdered wig, seductively blowing cigarette smoke, beyonce as Elizabeth I in a Westwood-esque crinoline, beyonce as Nefertiti, drumming gold talons on a bronzed knee and many more incarnations, the insinuation being clear - there's only one Queen Bey in the hive now.
There's been a bit of grumbling about the fact that only Beyonce's official photographer is allowed to take pictures of her in concert, but let's just compare for a moment: their effort...
Yeah, I think I'll leave it to the professionals. Oh and the finale... (If you don't want me to spoil it for you skip the next paragraph).
Well first of all she did Single Ladies and we all put a ring on it, obviously. Then she stood on stage in a spotlight and belted out I Will Always Love You, whispering "I love you Whitney" before moving seamlessly into that epic ballad, Halo. It was everything you could have wished for - bombastic and dramatic but also somehow intimate and moving and a fitting end to a spectacular performance.
I honestly cannot understand the carping and criticism when it comes to Beyonce. Caperton Gillett of Feministe addressed this perplexing negativity brilliantly in an article for the Guardian and I haven't much to add to that, except to say when every little girl in the crowd last night looked up at the stage they saw a woman in the prime of her life, making the most of her unique talents, strong, fit, healthy, powerful, happy, comfortable in her own skin and in complete control. But also clearly grateful for the chances she's been given (while knowing that she's earned them by working bloody hard.) And who wouldn't be inspired by that?