Judging from the popularity of “Crazy In Love,” the solo debut CD by Destiny's Child singer Beyoncé Knowles, there's never been much question that her fans would be eager to see her perform live on tour.
To hear Knowles discuss the subject, though, she wasn’t as sure that the time would be right any time in the immediate future for her to hit the concert trail.
“I didn’t want to do a tour until I had at least three singles, because usually people have numerous albums before they tour,” Knowles says.
“So I know this is probably my — I don’t know how many tours I’ve done with Destiny’s Child — but this is my first one as a solo artist, so I’m happy it happened. I didn’t even think I was going to get a chance to tour this album because of time. I do so many different things with movies, and I toured in Europe for two months and all of the videos and all of the performances and award shows and I finally said, ‘I’ve got to do a tour.’”
The artists Knowles found to share the stage with her this spring are anything but the usual warm-up acts. Following a short opening set from Tamia, Knowles will be preceded by two headliner-worthy stars.
Missy Elliott takes the stage second. Arguably the top female rapper in music, Elliott has cranked out a string of critically acclaimed, musically innovative and hugely popular CDs, including ‘‘Supa Dupa Fly’’ (1997), ‘‘Da Real World’’ (1999), ‘‘Miss E... So Addictive’’ (2001), ‘‘Under Construction’’ (2002) and her current release, ‘‘This Is Not A Test!’’
Following Elliott is Alicia Keys, whose sleek piano-laced brand of soul music is making her a major star. Her 2001 debut, ‘‘Songs In A Minor,’’ was a blockbuster breakthrough, selling more than 10 million copies worldwide, producing a massive hit in ‘‘Fallin’ ’’ and netting five Grammys. In December, she released her follow-up CD, ‘‘The Diary Of Alicia Keys,’’ and the CD, which has now topped two million in sales in the United States, debuted at No. 1 on Billboard magazine’s album chart.
Still, Knowles is the undisputed headliner for this triple-threat tour, which is billed as the Ladies First tour.
Her 2003 solo debut CD, ‘‘Crazy In Love,’’ topped three million in sales in
the United States alone and produced a pair of the hottest singles of the past year, ‘‘Crazy In Love’’ and ‘‘Baby Boy.’’ In February, she walked off with five Grammy Awards, including such prestigious honors as best contemporary R&B album and best female R&B vocal performance.
These accomplishments come on the heels of Knowles’ blockbuster success as the lead singer in Destiny's Child. That Houston-based group's first CD came out in 1998 when Knowles was just 16, and by 2000, the group had become a major force in R&B and pop despite going through major internal upheaval (original members LaTavia Roberson and LeToya Luckett were fired, with Michelle Williams joining Knowles and Kelly Rowland in the revamped group) in early 2000.
Meanwhile the 1999 CD ‘‘The Writing's On The Wall,’’ and the 2001 follow-up, ‘‘Survivor,’’ both became mega-platinum hits and spawned a steady string of hit singles, including ‘‘Say My Name,’’ ‘‘Independent Woman,’’ ‘‘Bootylicious’’ and ‘‘Survivor.’’
That sort of success hasn't happened by accident. Her father, Mathew Knowles, groomed his daughter for a music career from the time she was a child.
By age 10, when Knowles joined her first group, Girls Tyme, she had won 35 straight talent shows. Girls Tyme competed in the television show ‘‘Star Search’’ but lost — a setback that prompted Mathew Knowles to quit his job to manage his daughter full-time.
Over the next few years, Knowles put his daughter through training in singing, dancing, dealing with the media and even how to walk like a model. Knowles and her father studied countless hours of performance tapes of stars such as Michael and Janet Jackson, Madonna and Tina Turner.
By age 13, Girls Tyme had evolved into Destiny's Child and landed a deal with Elektra Records. That deal, though, fell apart. Undeterred, Knowles pursued another record contract, and two years later, Knowles and Destiny's Child were signed by Columbia, setting the stage for the group's successful run. By the time Knowles stepped out as a solo artist on ‘‘Crazy In Love,’’ she had proven herself not only to be a fine singer and dancer, but a force behind her music as well. On ‘‘Crazy In Love,’’ she co-wrote 10 of the CD's 14 songs and produced or co-produced 12 of the tracks as well.
Knowles admitted that she sometimes laments the fact that her thorough involvement in her music and her concerts goes unnoticed.
‘‘That does bother me at times,’’ she says. ‘‘I'm very involved with everything — all the performances, the ideas, the concepts, the Grammy performance of ‘‘Dangerously In Love,’’ the ‘‘Picture Frame,’’ the videos, the editing of all the videos, the costumes — everything I'm involved in.
“I think finally I'm getting acknowledged for those things, but I was the first black woman to win songwriter of the year and I've accomplished so many other things that people don't really like to acknowledge and it is frustrating at times. But I think once you see me live you really have no choice but to respect me as a true artist.’’
While that statement suggests nothing but confidence about her performing skills, Knowles says performing solo was a major adjustment.
‘‘When I did it in Europe I was so terrified,’’ she says. ‘‘I mean, even before touring, just performing on television and the shows I had done on the radio (were nerve-wracking), but now I've gotten a lot more used to it. I mean, it still is strange because you have so much to remember and when you have other people on stage they're there to catch you...But I love performing by myself also. It's great to work on something and use all of your own ideas and be able to have complete control over everything... So I love both of them.’’
That love of collaboration in the studio and on stage is one reason why Knowles will soon be rejoining Rowland and Williams in the studio to record a fourth Destiny's Child CD.
‘‘Right after the (Ladies First) tour we're going in the studio and I think we're all extremely excited because we've had, I guess, about two years to do solo things and movies and plays, and everyone has been successful individually,’’ Knowles says. ‘‘I think we will be, we're the first female group to come back together after all of that.
‘‘I think this is going to be one of the most challenging things because we've all grown so much, and I think it's going to be best album because of that, because we have our own sound and our own personalities,’’ she says. ‘‘We have so much to bring to each other. We can learn so much from each other. I mean, I've learned a lot over the past year, and so have Michelle and so has Kelly, so basically we’re all stronger, so it will make the group stronger.’’
Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, Missy Elliott With: Tamia
Where: America West Arena, 201 E. Jefferson St., Phoenix
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
How much: $40-$70
Info: (602) 379-7800