AP Music Writer
If naysayers still doubted Beyonce’s singing talents – even after her national anthem performance last week at a press conference – the singer proved she is an exceptional performer at the Super Bowl halftime show.
Beyonce opened and closed her set Sunday belting out songs, and in between, she danced hard and heavy – and better than most contemporary pop stars.
She set a serious tone as she emerged onstage in all black, singing lines from her R&B hit “Love on Top.” The stage was dark as fire and lights burst from the sides. Then she went into her hit “Crazy in Love,” bringing some feminine spirit to the Superdome in New Orleans as she and her background dancers did the singer’s signature booty-shaking dance. Beyonce ripped off part of her shirt and skirt. She even blew a kiss. She was ready to rock, and she did so like a pro.
Her confidence – and voice – grew as she worked the stage with and without her Destiny’s Child band mates during her 13-minute set, which came days after she admitted she sang to a prerecorded track at President Barack Obama’s inauguration less than two weeks ago.
Beyonce proved not only that she can sing, but that she can also entertain on a stage as big as the Super Bowl’s. The 31-year-old was far better than Madonna, who sang to a backing track last year, and miles ahead of the Black Eyed Peas’ disastrous set in 2011.
Beyonce was best when she finished her set with “Halo.” She asked the crowd to put their hands toward her as she sang the slow groove on bended knee – and that’s when she the performance hit its high note.
Her background singers helped out as Beyonce danced around the stage throughout most of her performance. There was a backing track to help fill in when Beyonce wasn’t singing, and there were long stretches when she let it play as she performed elaborate dance moves.
She had a swarm of background dancers and band members spread throughout the stage, along with videotaped images of the singer dancing that may have unintentionally played on the live-or-taped question. And the crowd got bigger when she was joined by her Destiny’s Child band mates.
Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams popped up from below the stage to sing “Bootylicious.” They were in similar outfits, singing and dancing closely as they harmonized. But Rowland and Williams were barely heard when the group sang “Independent Woman,” as their voices faded into the background.
They also joined in for some of “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It),” where Beyonce’s voice grew stronger. That song featured Beyonce’s skilled choreography, as did “End of Time” and “Baby Boy,” which also showcased Beyonce’s all-female band, balancing out the testosterone levels on the football field.
Before the game, Alicia Keys performed a lounge-y, piano-tinged version of the national anthem that her publicist assured was live. The Grammy-winning singer played the piano as she sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” in a long red dress with her eyes shut.
She followed Jennifer Hudson, who sang “America the Beautiful” with the 26-member Sandy Hook Elementary School chorus. It was an emotional performance that had some players on the sideline on the verge of tears. Hudson also sang live, her publicist said.
The students wore green ribbons on their shirts in honor of the 20 first-graders and six adults who were killed in a Dec. 14 shooting rampage at the school in Newtown, Conn.
The students began the song softly before Hudson, whose mother, brother and 7-year-old nephew were shot to death five years ago, jumped in with her gospel-flavored vocals. She stood still in black and white as the students moved to the left and right, singing background.