Beyoncé is somewhere near her eighth outfit of the night, and the fabric of this one is made to look like so many brass pipes. She's singing "Crazy in Love," which is appropriate, because no one has ever resembled a human horn section as much as Beyoncé on "Crazy in Love."
This is the grand finale. She used a remixed version of "Countdown" for the climactic costume change interlude, which is to say she didn't even really play one of the 25 most exhilarating pop songs of the last decade. That's the kind of thing you can get away with when you can follow it up with two of the five most exhilarating pop songs of the same span.
The best part of the "Countdown" clip was that it involved splicing in Jay-Z's "I got the hottest chick in the game wearing my chain" line from "Public Service Announcement." This tour is called the Mrs. Carter Show World Tour, but you're more likely to walk away from it calling Jay-Z Mr. Knowles. The "PSA" line is pretty much the only airtime Jay gets at this show, and it's used to further demonstrate Beyoncé's power. And he pays for it a few minutes later during his second and final cameo on the backing track when he gets to introduce her ("It's your girl, B") but not himself ("It's your boy, Young," which is excised from the mix) on "Crazy in Love." All hail Queen Bey. Long may she rule.
So we go from "Countdown" to "Crazy in Love" to "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On it)," and it is complete, adoring pandemonium inside American Airlines Center, every single person flipping his or her left hand back and forth in the air as fat strips of gold confetti fly 30 feet into the air in every direction from the stage. It is the second time this exact tour has come to Dallas this year, and I'd go again if it made a third stop before New Year's Eve.
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The Mrs. Carter World Tour felt like a victory lap on day one. She's been doing this well for a long time, before she was a teenager in Destiny's Child, before the solo break, before every boy and plenty of girls closed their eyes and saw her striding down the middle of a street in a white tank and Daisy Dukes. Before Kanye West interrupted Taylor Swift to say what everyone was thinking, before she took on over a hundred million Americans sitting in front of their TVs with a triumphant snarl at Super Bowl XLVII, Beyoncé was preparing for her ascension from Houston.
There are misconceptions about being from Texas. It involves Southern hospitality but Eastern Seaboard ambition and puritanical personal responsibility. The ideal Texan smiles warmly and does not allow others to shoulder her yoke, and Beyoncé is that.
She's got more to say, presumably, but she's already fixed her flag on Pop Mountain and our state's best ambassador spent 2013 traveling around the world, giving people a chance to kiss the ring in person.
And now, she's 97 dates into a 107-stop tour that earned $55.6 million by show number 36. The first run of U.S. dates sold out basically instantaneously. She wound up playing three shows in London to meet demand, and sold out the Superdome in July.
So by now you know the CliffsNotes. The backing band is all women. The backup dancers are all women except Les Twins from Paris, France, and they possess unusually delicate features. The interlude clips are Victorian. In the key one, halfway through the 90-minute show, she delivers a monologue about female sexuality, about its ability to "manipulate and to celebrate."
Her backup dancers don't smile much; she smiles only slightly more often, only when the audience has earned it. When Beyoncé dances, it's not for your pleasure but for hers. You're welcome to join her if you like.
The "encore" -- now such a perfunctory part of every concert that it no longer even pretends to be necessitated by the demands of the crowd -- begins with an a capella rendition of one of the most vocally challenging songs ever written: Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You," its diva credentials further certified by Whitney Houston. Beyoncé, cast in stark relief by a spotlight beaming from behind her, drills it, taking the gymnastic tempo liberties reserved for people utterly in command of these high notes. Lip-sync this, she might be saying, if responding to critics were the kind of thing someone like Beyoncé has time for.
Beyoncé Setlist: 12/9/13, Dallas, Texas INTRO: I Been On Run the World (Girls) End of Time INTERLUDE: You Are a Queen If I Were a Boy Get Me Bodied Baby Boy Diva INTERLUDE: Naughty Girl Party Freakum Dress Why Don't You Love Me 1+1 Irreplaceable Love on Top Survivor INTERLUDE: Countdown Crazy in Love Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It) ENCORE I Will Always Love You Halo Green Light / Suga Mama