For my final paper in Enjoyment of Music, I was required to watch Beyonce’s 2013 Chime for Change concert, filmed live in London, England, and evaluate the performance. As with the Classical Concert Report, I have removed the in-text citations and placed links to the sources used in the paper at the end of the report. Also as with the Classical Report, I was required to deliver an objective, academic, “blow-by-blow” description of the performance and not allowed to give my opinion of the music itself. I will say in this introduction, however, that I am not a huge fan of 2000s/2010s pop and R&B.
School: University of Southern Mississippi
Course: MUS 165
Instructor: Professor Reyelt
Date: April 3, 2021
Pop Concert Report
Filmed live on June 1, 2013, at Twickenham outdoor stadium in London, England, pop star Beyonce’s headlining performance at the Chime for Change charity concert opened with an eight-piece string section, seated stage left, playing a brief introduction and backed by cymbals. A center-stage screen rose, revealing Beyonce, who soon began singing a cover of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come” while moving forward toward the audience. In response, the audience stood, cheered, applauded, and raised phones. The arrangement was supported by simple instrumentation with light percussion and bass joining the strings.
At time stamp 02:07, Beyonce formally introduced herself and the event, as strings played the intro to jazz standard “At Last,” which Beyonce had previously covered as a studio release. Like the preceding cover, “At Last” also sported sparse instrumentation, but with a driving piano. Both “A Change Is Gonna Come” and “At Last” were performed reverently, with little stylistic update to the Sam Cooke and Etta James versions respectively.
After “At Last” ended at 05:02, the string players exited, and Beyonce took a moment to promote the Chime for Change charity, which she-cofounded, before launching into her 2011 Top 30 Billboard hit “Run the World (Girls),” with a call-and-response between herself and the audience. The band executed an accelerando at 07:01, keeping the energy level high and the audience on their feet.
After “Run the World” ended, Beyonce asked the audience if there were any “survivors” in attendance, with emphasis on the word as a cue to her next song, the #2 Billboard hit “Survivor” from her time with R&B girl group Destiny’s Child. Picking up on the cue, the audience cheered. “Survivor” officially began at 09:45. Of note in this song was the loud and fluid drum work. Beyonce seemed to be struggling on the higher notes on this piece and was reportedly battling a sore throat. Around the 11-minute mark, the pop icon prompted the audience to join in, with pumping fists and another call-and-response. She also informed the audience of a tempo increase ahead of its 11:20 execution. The tempo increased even faster to its finish at 11:30, all to audience cheers.
At 11:45; Beyonce’s #1 hit “Irreplaceable” began with an acoustic guitar solo intro, joined by percussion two measures in. At 13:42, the bass guitar joined on the chorus, while a full drum kit arrived at 14:09. Backing vocalists joined with harmony in verse 2 at 14:11. The band executed a crescendo going into the bridge around 15:00, with a three-piece brass section spotlighted at 16:20 near the song’s finale.
After “Irreplaceable,” Beyonce exited while a video interlude with music and voiceover played. A heavy kick drum began at 18:42 while all other instrumentation dropped out at 18:48.
Beyonce soon returned and began singing her #3 hit “If I Were a Boy,” backed solely by bass drum. A heavily distorted electric guitar joined at 19:05, with more instruments joining at 19:23, and a synthesizer sounding prominently. At 20:43, instruments rose from a brief piano segment, and a crescendo followed, then a decrescendo to cessation. The audience cheered for several seconds, before Beyonce returned with vocals, accompanied by piano, at 21:32. Soon, the synthesizer, bass, and strings returned, followed by the entire band with heavy drum work. Following a powerhouse vocal variation of the chorus, the musicians performed another crescendo, then ended abruptly. Beyonce returned leading another audience call-and-response of a refrain of the song, before singing the final line a cappella. The band struck four chords in quick succession to end.
The band then launched into “Crazy in Love,” another #1 hit, prompting the audience to “go wild.” On this particular song, Beyonce sounded strained on her lower register, presumably due to her reported sore throat. At 24:50, Beyonce’s husband and original featured artist Jay-Z entered to thunderous applause.
At 26:48, the band rolled straight into yet another #1 hit “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).” The performance was the most energetic of the night from both Beyonce and the band, with the performers seeming to keep the audience engaged more than any other song. Following the song’s end at 30:30, Beyonce once again exited for another brief interlude featuring heavy percussive elements and back-up vocalists singing the refrain “I’m a grown woman / I can do whatever I want.”
Beyonce returned at 31:58 for “Grown Woman,” a performance that, at times, engendered the feel of an improvised “jam.” At 36:13, Beyonce covered “I Will Always Love You” a cappella for the verse, while the audience sang along. An atmospheric synth joined her on the chorus. Beyonce’s version here was stylistically close to the rendition by Whitney Houston, to whom Beyonce dedicated the song at the end of its performance.
From the dedication, Beyonce rolled straight into her #5 hit “Halo” at 37:50, with full drums, bass, and heavy electric guitar joining the atmospheric synth with stabs. During this song, Beyonce walked downstage for a close interaction with the audience and led the crowd in an arm waving sing-a-long. Despite struggling with tone and pitch at various points throughout the night, Beyonce closed the concert with a near pristine vocal performance and inarguably the best vocal of the night, ending at 42:50 to wildly positive reception from the audience.
Overall, the set provided hard-hitting, rhythm-driven original hits, with a few covers of popular ballads sprinkled in, all designed to keep the audience engaged and showcase the vocal prowess of the show’s star. While, as previously mentioned, string and brass sections accompanied certain pieces, the core of the band comprised the standard pop music instruments of electric and acoustic guitars, bass guitar, keyboards/synthesizers, and drums/percussion. The band was positioned on a split raised platform at the back of the main stage, and while it was often difficult to see the area, it appeared two keyboardists, three backing vocalists, and one guitarist were positioned left to right on the left platform, and the bassist, brass section, and drummer/percussionist (also from left to right) shared the right platform. Much like the construction of the setlist, the band’s position was designed to keep the spotlight on the main attraction, and based on the audience’s reaction, I would say both the set and staging achieved their purposes.
In fact, the difference between the audience’s reaction to this concert and the classical audience’s reaction during the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra performance of Beethoven’s 7th is striking. While the audience at Concertgebouw remained practically stoic throughout the performance, saving a standing ovation for the post-finale, the audience at Twickenham was loud and mobile from start to finish—and I don’t believe the artist would prefer it any other way.