March 27, 2004
Charlotte Coliseum - Charlotte, NC


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Missy Elliott, while definitely fun, didn’t quite live up to her potential. On record, she’s one of the most innovative and daring artists there is. Live, she hasn’t got it all figured out yet. The set was frenzied and disjointed. It was full on, all the time with a wounding lack of dynamics that never really found a flow. That being said, it’s hard not to like Missy and she managed to squeeze in most of her hits in the half hour that she was allotted. “Work It” and “Get Ur Freak On” warmed up the crowd nicely for the rest of the night. If Missy would relax a little while focusing a bit less on costume changes and magic tricks, she’d really be on to something.

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Missy Elliott:

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Alicia Keys:

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Alicia Keys delivered quite a strong set. She is no longer rooted behind the keyboard all night. She’s taken to dancing, “conducting” and leading her band like an instrument, Prince-style. It works more often than not. Once in a while, it seemed a little unnatural, but she’s new at the front woman game so she deserves a little time to work out the kinks. When behind her piano, she can’t be touched. “A Woman’s Worth,” “Diary” and (of course) “Fallin’” were deep excursions into the female soul but her covers may have been even more telling. The Jackson 5’s “Never Can Say Goodbye” was tossed in against Ray Charles’ “The Night Time (Is The Right Time)” and she made them sound equally as poignant and bluesy. Perhaps the highlight of the short set was Prince’s “How Come U Don’t Call Me Anymore” which found the crowd slinging lines back at Alicia. It was all timeless and satisfying. It was near perfect.

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Beyonce is the Diana Ross of our generation; there is no doubt about it. Onstage, she’s confident, strong and an overwhelmingly evocative singer. Plus, she seems real. She’s just plain sexy, never desperate and she connects. Arriving onstage like Cleopatra, carried through the audience by her dancers, Ms. Knowles launched into a 70-minute set with a bouncing “Baby Boy.” Even though she has only one solo album to her credit, she still managed to come across as the established artist that she is. Everything was right in its place. Whether it was the video flames during the first number, her demand for love from her audience (and sending it back) or simply belting out notes that no one should be able to hit while dancing, Beyonce had it all. The glitzy production never overshadowed the star, in fact it only strengthened the intensity of the live (re: no lip-synching) experience.

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Mid-set, she dipped briefly into her Destiny’s Child catalog for “Independent Women,” “Jumpin’ Jumpin’” and “Survivor” but the focus was on her solo music which is (at least) the equal of her work with the group. Even better, she’s reigned in her over-singing to become a master of phrasing and taste as evidenced by the set ending “Dangerously In Love” which found Beyonce in a long white ball gown, evoking the spirit of the jazz chanteuses of the past. She even managed to top the whole show for the single encore. As pyro licked the edges of the stage during a powerful “Crazy In Love”, boyfriend/rap demigod Jay-Z ran onto the stage to spit out his bit while proudly dancing with his girl. They were both all smiles, clearly having a great time. The audience was even more rapturous. This show was proof that pop can be valid, not just vapid. Whatever other performers in her genre may be, Beyonce is beyond.

Chris McKay /


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