Beyoncé didn’t headline the first night of the Made In America festival as much as the Mrs. Carter Show World Tour made a stop in Philadelphia. In an hour and a half she went through no less than seven costumes, performed 17 songs and showed seven short films. Girl got a lot done on the Rocky Steps.
PHOTO GALLERY: Made In America 2013
What she brought to the Made In America party was grown woman sexuality. From rolling on the stage while singing “Make Love To Me” to twerking through “End Of Time” to everything about “Get Me Bodied,” Beyoncé gave the crowd a good, hard look at what a sexpot the mother of a toddler could be.
Almost more interesting than the songs, which were all the catalog tracks (heavy on the catalog, light on the hits) and none of her new stuff, were the between song short films. She explored the Marie Antoinette theme she’s been cultivating around her still forthcoming next album. She recreated some well-known pop culture moments with a film reminiscent of a ’90s Calvin Klein perfume ad and one that was distinctly Target-esque. But most touchingly was the film to tease “I Was Here.” The entire audience let out a big “aw” when Blue Ivy popped on the screen.
Jay Z was teased — he made a big trek across the grounds, just like he did last year, from Deadmau5’s stage to Beyoncé’s, and showed up in her act via some background vocals before “Crazy In Love,” but this was the Mrs. Carter Show — only Mrs. Carter. – Courtney E. Smith
IMAGINE DRAGONS LOVE AMERICA AND DRUMS
“Sometimes it seems popular to hate on America,” Dan Reynolds said during Imagine Dragons‘ set, noting that the band are just returning to the country after touring abroad. “Sometimes the politics aren’t right, or the money isn’t right, but I love this country.” And Made In America reciprocated: they got lots of love, at least from the ladies, during “It’s Time.” Once they played their closer “Radioactive,” dudes and ladies got on their feet: guys too. By the way, it seems that Imagine Dragons is on the cusp of the trend: these days, everyone in a rock band gets a few drums of their own to bash on; we would see Haim and Walk The Moon do the same. – Brian Ives
DEADMAU5 CREATED A CREEPY ALICE IN WONDERLAND GONE WRONG
For the generation who want to dance so badly that anything will do, Deadmau5 brought his esoteric dance music. Exploring his dark side seemed to the theme of the night, between long periods of droning music and extraordinarily creepy mechanical flower heads bearing the famous Deadmau5 head. It was a bad trip gone freaky. – C.E.S.
PUBLIC ENEMY: STILL FIGHTING THE POWER
Last year, Made In America featured a set by hip-hop legends Run-D.M.C. This year, Public Enemy got that slot. And while their set had less of a sense of occasion than Run-D.M.C.’s — it was one of that group’s first performances since the death of Jam Master Jay — P.E. still got the audience’s attention. Classics like “Rebel Without A Pause,” “911 Is A Joke,” “Don’t Believe The Hype” and “Bring The Noise” got the everyone rocking; some younger female audience members seemed confused when trying to twerk to P.E.’s beats, perhaps not realizing that that’s not the right dance for all hip hop. Midway through the set frontman Chuck D brought a local educator on stage and gave her to mic to speak out against huge cuts from the Philadelphia school budget. They also had “Free Mumia” banners (possibly not the type of message event sponsor Budweiser would have approved of). Other highlights included a guest spot by legendary Philly MC Schoolly D, while Flavor Flav accompanied his freestyle on the drums, and an extended “Welcome To The Terrordome,” which featured with Flav on bass guitar. “You thought he was just a reality show star?” Chuck asked. Before Public Enemy’s set, the answer was probably “yes.” – B.I.
BAND TO WATCH: WALK THE MOON
These guys from Ohio had the prize position of kicking off the main (Rocky — so named because it’s on top of the famous Rocky Steps from the movie) stage. They brought the funk, with Bee Gees falsetto, Chic dance groves and day glow face paint. They inspired all the hand clapping and butt shaking that was appropriate for 2PM and had a little bit of an intimate moment with several thousand people during their song “Shiver,” when the crowd sang in unison the line, “Shall we get intimate again?” – C.E.S.
EMPIRE OF THE SUN GIVE US DANCE MUSIC WITH THEATRICS AND GUITAR. LOTS OF IT.
You can’t really compare Empire Of The Sun to anyone: they sound like dance music, but they play (mostly) live instruments, and frontman Luke Steele’s lead guitar takes a central role in many of their songs. And they put as much effort into their visuals as they do to their sound. In a sea of faceless bands, their style seems to have struck a nerve: despite not having any huge hits, the second (Liberty) stage was packed with fans waiting for their performance. And they were not disappointed. With incredible lighting, backing dancers and Steele’s usual garb (white makeup over his eyes and a huge headpiece), the band gave the audience a lot to look at, as well as listen to. The audience looked euphoric throughout the entire set, but never more so than during “Walking On A Dream” and “Alive.” – B.I.
WHAT DOES A$AP STAND FOR? NOT “AS SOON AS POSSIBLE”
In case you were wondering what the A$AP in A$AP Rocky stands for, it isn’t the generally accepted acronym “as soon as possible.” They’ve said in interviews that it’s “Always Strive And Prosper.” Good thing, too: the MC hit the stage over 20 minutes late, and played an abbreviated set of only 15 minutes. – B.I.
EMELI SANDE INSPIRES NEAR RELIGIOUS FERVOR
Emeli Sandé plays to arena-sized crowds in her native England and she showed why on the stage today. Her voice is literally too big for anything other than the great outdoors and thousands of people. She got both and used them to start a fire in the crowd that felt nearly religious in it’s zealotry. Her song lyrics, full of messages about self-esteem and love, seemed to resonate most with teenage girls and gay men in the audience, but the bros were down for some of her good feelings also. The vibe went from praising (ourselves) to tent revival as Sandé requested the crowd sing along, and they were very happy to oblige. – C.E.S.
HAIM BRING CLASSIC ROCK TO A NEW GENERATION
This sister act opened their set with a little on-stage twerking to Jay Z’s “Big Pimpin’,” but make it clear they were here to rock from the second they started playing. Between the singles they’ve released so far and their cover of Peter Green era Fleetwood Mac’s “Oh Well,” they may have had the most rocking show of the day.
One of the great things about these girls is that they are unafraid to make ugly guitar face. Between the cute between-song banter, it’s awesome to see them all go into killing it mode and pull a big old rock face. As is the regular in their set, they closed with a drum circle — but it was awesome. – C.E.S.