Seeing an artist like Beyoncé live is not your average concert experience. It is something people check off their bucket lists and spend upwards of 1,000 dollars to be given the chance to have that special fan-artist moment. Sadly, I cannot spend that much on a single concert, even if it’s Queen Bey herself. I settled for an outrageously priced 100-level section at Citi Field Baseball Stadium in Queens. Bey had sold out two nights at the stadium and had additionally sold out most of her world tour to promote her visual album, “Lemonade.”
We all knew “Lemonade” was coming. There were rumors that Beyoncé was about to drop the album of the year for months, but nobody knew when. I felt as though the excitement for this album was different than for previous releases, as Beyoncé had not been known to be too controversial. However, the release of the single “Formation” illustrated that the countless murders happening across the country against Black men and women would not be silenced. Bey acknowledges her power as a strong Black woman through affirmations such as “I slay,” references to the Black Lives Matter movement and her parents’ heritage. It also features a barrage of police officers in riot uniforms in front of a Black boy in a hoodie, with the words “Stop Shooting Us” on a wall in the background.
In addition, Beyoncé’s performance of “Formation” at the Super Bowl spurned a discussion over her backup dancers wearing outfits that resembled those of the Black Panther movement. Beyoncé is emerging as an outspoken activist, as opposed to the mainstream artist that appealed to all audiences through her friendly pop singles. Saturday Night Live’s skit, “The Day Beyoncé Turned Black,” perfectly exemplifies the absurdity of supporting an artist when she does not display her opinion on the injustice occurring throughout the country. The sarcastic skit features white people freaking out after realizing the singer is Black after watching the “Formation” music video.
Beyoncé’s shift as an artist of mainstream pop music to using her platform for social justice was fully realized through the release of “Lemonade,” a visual album that debuted on HBO and was then released on iTunes. “Lemonade” contains many different layers. It features the deterioration and later improvement in the relationship between Bey and Jay-Z, but it is more than an album about cheating. The visual aspect of the album highlights Black excellence, and includes influential Black women such as Quvenzhané Wallis, Zendaya, Winnie Harlow and Amanda Stenberg. However, it also shows vulnerability through the mothers of those who have lost their children due to police violence such as Mike Brown and Trayvon Martin. Additionally, one can see this through Beyoncé’s spiral after Jay’s supposed infidelity.
The Formation Tour showcases “Lemonade” while also taking songs and visuals from Bey’s long history as an artist. As I got on the 6 train to get to Citi Field with my cousin and her work friends that all adored Bey as much as I did, I was ready. Carrying my homemade lemonade slushie, I stepped off of the subway and was immersed in a crowd of large, black hats and more Beyoncé merch than I had ever seen before.
DJ Khaled, the opening act, introduced Bey for all of her North American shows, and brought out the likes of French Montana, Tinashe and about a dozen other rappers I had never heard of. The creator of “major key” himself does nothing original, as he just uses hype words and brings out other artists for his entire set. I found myself bored and ready for the real show to start.
The sold-out stadium felt packed, and every line seemed too long to bother waiting on. The crowd’s energy was contagious and each time a popular song came on, the audience around me would get really into it. Everyone was excited to see what Bey had prepared for us. As the lights dimmed, an enormous screen on the stage began moving, and the flower seen in the “Formation” promotion art appeared. As the screen continued to rotate, the first notes of “Formation” started playing, and I don’t think I had ever screamed that loud before. Beyoncé emerged with her dancers behind her, all donning the large black hats synonymous with the song. It was a bold move starting with the lead single of the newest album, and the song the tour was named after, but this is Beyoncé. She doesn’t have anything to prove or rules to follow.
The next song, “Sorry,” was also off of “Lemonade,” and after the momentum of “Formation,” I felt that this was the best song of the night, although I am probably biased because it is my current favorite song by Bey. Each song had visual imagery from either “Lemonade” or newly created visuals, with some of my favorites being a flickering “Bow Down” during “Flawless” and pink/black- printed “Hustler” appearing on the screen during “Diva.”
You don’t go to a Beyoncé concert just for the singing. Bey has perhaps the greatest stage presence I have ever seen. In a sold-out stadium, she still makes you feel as though she is singing directly to you. In addition, her dancing is perfected to the second and her dancers feel like an intrinsic part of the show. Yet she doesn’t fail to show her vulnerability during a slowed-down version of “1+1” and the iconic “Halo” as a finale. For almost two hours, Bey did not ever lose my attention with her packed 34-song set, including snippets of some songs and others as full versions.
Particularly powerful aspects of the show included hearing “Don’t Hurt Yourself” live, in which Bey is not fucking around when she says, “Tonight I’m fucking up all your shit boy.” While other artists rely on encores and crowd-pleasing singles for the finale, Bey laying in a pool of water after “Freedom” to sing a moving performance of “Halo” was overwhelmingly beautiful.
Overall, Beyoncé is a performer that provides not just a concert but a visual experience. Her dancing, connection with her fans and iconic songs all combine to making it the night of your life. While I was disappointed with the opening act and how crowded the stadium felt, it is all worth it once you see Bey come out, bopping to the beat of “Formation.” If you want to see Queen Bey live, she is bringing the Formation Tour to MetLife Stadium on Oct. 7. I promise it is not something to miss.