Revel definitely hit the nail on its $2.4 billion dollar head with its holiday-weekend booking of super-duperstar Beyonce.
The four-show run that concludes Monday—the singer’s first and only performances since the birth of her daughter, Ivy Blue Carter (pop, of course, is hip-hop overlord Jay-Z)--is an exclusive that instantly confers upon Revel world-class status. But in Beyonce, the mega-resort has a headliner whose theatricality matches that of her host property.
Saturday, the sold-out, 5,050-seat Ovation Hall was packed with enthusiastic devotees (many of whom paid hundreds of dollars for the privilege of attending)—as well as such VVIPs as First Lady Michele Obama and her two daughters, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Norristown-bred actress Maria Bello. Royalty and commoner alike were obviously dazzled and delighted as Beyonce and her small army of supporting singers, dancers and musicians (who comprised an eight-piece, all-female band) conjured an impressive onslaught of sight, sound and motion.
Beyonce's name might have been the one on the ticket for the two-hour, 27-song program, but those responsible for its design and staging deserve as much credit as anyone. The show's visual centerpiece was a stage-spanning video display screen offering an endless array of multi-hued shapes and geometric patterns, not to mention crystal-clear wide shots and close-ups of the star. The result was a dramatic presentation befitting a performer of Beyonce’s magnitude.
Among the most stunning examples of the optical wizardry were the blue-and-white columns of light that framed the curtain-raising “End of Time” and the electronic backdrop for “I Miss You,” in which a male dancer was silhouetted in kinetic, black-and-white stripes.
Throughout, the evening was animated by athletic choreography that animated a large percentage of the more than two dozen songs on the set list. It is testament to Beyonce’s star-power that her stage incandescent presence never allowed the visual pyrotechnics behind her or the hyperkinetic dancers beside her to rise above the peripheral.
Nor, it should be added, did Beyonce need to call attention to herself with the kind of sartorial extremism that Lady Gaga (and Madonna before her) require. As a matter of fact, the series of shape-hugging, leg-baring costumes in which she was garbed were, by today’s standards, almost demure.
As for the music, Beyonce kept the needle in the red zone for much of the show, dealing primarily in such full-throttle, groove-intensive signature tracks as “Love on Top,” “Get Me Bodied” and the concert-closing “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It).” And she showed off a nice sense of historical debt by paying loving tribute to two of her antecedents who recently passed away, Donna Summer (“Naughty Girl”) and Whitney Houston (“I Will Always Love You’).
But the most interesting moments may have been those in the mid-set segment during which she dialed it back and removed most of the sonic and visual distractions. Her versions of the ballad, “1+1,” “Resentment” and Lauryn Hill’s “Ex-Factor”—the latter two relying on the strum of an acoustic guitar for its musical backbone--proved a nice respite from the relentless thump-thump-thump of the many dance-pop numbers. It also gave Beyonce a break with having to compete with the wall of sound provided by the band, as well as a chance to show off the breadth and depth of her vocal abilities.
In all, a performance worthy—and then some--of the two-months of hype that preceded this weekend, and a fitting climax to Revel’s long-awaited grand opening.