Rexall Place, Edmonton - March 26, 2009

MIKE ROSS - Special to Sun Media

, Last Updated: 6:47 AM ET

EDMONTON - Why on Earth would Beyonce choose Edmonton to be the first date of her new world tour?

Two words: Paid rehearsal. If something went wrong at Rexall Place last night, who cares? It's Edmonton. Work out the kinks in the hinterland before upcoming dates in places like Vienna, Prague, Paris and London. Makes sense, doesn't it? It may also explain the "no media" rule in force at the show last night. You wouldn't want some kind of bootylicious wardrobe malfunction on the front page of the Edmonton Sun, would you? Or maybe you would.

Well, anyway, media ban or not, we can still buy a ticket - lots were available - and review the show. One word here: Spectacular.

I don't know what she was worried about, if indeed she was. There were no kinks, not a single bad note or missed cue was evident. Drawing just 8,000 fans, far less than is expected at Britney Spears in two weeks, the show had all the high-production bells and whistles you'd expect from the African-American queen of all media. As with her tour in 2007, there was also the extra-large all-girl band, the phalanx of backup dancers drilled in the latest artful choreography, songs spanning a remarkable career - solo and with Destiny's Child - in a wide range of musical styles, not to mention a remarkable vocal range, and of course the riveting presence of the star herself.

The tour is called I Am ... to support her latest double album I Am ... Sasha Fierce. So in addition to seeing Beyonce's alter-ego (that would be Sasha Fierce), which as far as I can tell is just the uptempo side of this ridiculously gifted artist, we can fill in the blanks in that loaded ellipsis at will. I Am ... the new Tina Turner. I Am ... one hell of a singer. I Am ... blessed with a great butt. And so on. Sure, it's a bit of a self-centred title for a tour, but in what was basically a celebration of all things Beyonce, who else would you want in the spotlight the entire time? Her image - in one revealing costume after another - filled the video screens. Her voice filled the arena. The extra-large all-girl band filled the spaces between, buying time for costume changes.

There was little that was subtle about this show, but some of the Canadian musical homages were appreciated - like a snippet from Sarah McLachlan in her a version of Ave Maria, or a blast from Alanis Morissette's You Oughta Know in If I Were a Boy, the latter seeing Beyonce decked out in some armour-plated get-up like Aunty Entity in Mad Max: Beyond the Thunderdome. Like I said, she's the new Tina Turner.

You might also quibble with some of the robotic wrinkles that weighed down the second half of the concert, though the flying through the air routine was entertaining in a Cirque du Soleil sort of way.

Beyonce can sing traditional R&B if she wants. She proved it late last night - wailing on the Etta James classic At Last, which she performed for the inauguration of U.S president Barack Obama.

There weren't a lot of traditional R&B moments like that last night. Based on the new material, she seems more interested in reinventing the wheel and doesn't seem clear on which way she's going to go. With talent like this, it could be anywhere. It just doesn't have to be everywhere.

The audience, which was forced to wait in the concourse for a full half hour while the band finished its soundcheck, got shafted on the opening act. It was just a mere four songs from 2006 Canadian Idol winner Eva Avila. She even seemed to forget the words to her own latest minor hit, from her second, album: Damned, as in "damned if I do, damned if I don't." There's a message in there somewhere.


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