Beyonce: Formation World Tour
Date Seen: May 20, 2016
Cost of Ticket: $200
So at the time that I went to the Beyonce concert, I didn’t even have an ‘Entertainment’ category to my website. I would rarely write a review of a show two months later, but it is a world tour and the show is continuing through Europe and back in the US until later in the year. This and the fact that people are still talking about the show. For so many people it has been the highlight of their summer. I sit here shaking my head in confusion.
The Monday morning after the concert, I had several coworkers swing by my office exclaiming how much they loved the show. Then I’d say “Well, didn’t you think the setlist was kinda terrible?” and they would agree but remarked how amazing she was. Another colleague would stop by and sing Beyonce’s praises. I’d remark “Didn’t some of the costumes seem odd?” They would again say yes and then move on to something more flattering. And when I asked them what they thought of the tribute to the late Prince, everyone seemed to gush. Call me crazy but lighting a screen purple while a recording of Purple Rain plays hardly seems like a tribute when you’re Queen Bey. I can still recall her beautiful tribute to Whitney Houston every night of the Mrs. Carter when she belted I Will Always Love You and sent Whitney her love.
But let’s start off with some praise for the show.
Beyonce is an incredible performer. Her voice is pitch perfect and she doesn’t hold back going for the big notes. She is a great dancer and commands the stage the minute she walks on. Her interactions with the audience were relaxed and funny and personable. She never comes across as scripted.
The staging is massive and can only be for a stadium tour. The main stage was huge with a connecting catwalk down to the B-stage. The entire space utilizes lighting, pyrotechnics and the B-stage even converts into a fountain (only done in 1 show). There are massive screens ensuring everyone gets a good view—even if you’re in the cheap(er) seats. The stage is also equipped with a 60 foot LED cube which is impressive in every sense. It rotates, splits and turns vertically—it is also sadly underused in the show. Mostly it doubles as another jumbotron.
Her dancers and band hit all the right notes. The band was clear (even at times when Beyonce wasn’t) and they were studio quality. As for the dancing troupe, they never lacked energy and gave a great show considering the harsh (and potentially unsafe) conditions.
Speaking of conditions, the show was outdoors and it was cold and miserable most of the night. It drizzled for the majority of the evening and then towards the end, it was full-on rain and I thought it could snow. Beyonce made one joke about how she had never been so cold in her life. But she performed like a true professional...a professional clad in a variety of fur coats, but a professional nonetheless.
Now it is time to point out some of the issues:
The setlist was sad. While the roster calls for 35 songs we need to be very clear that this is a 2 hour show. Many of the songs get cut down to the point of being unrecognizable (Crazy in Love, Bootylicious, and many more). Other songs like Purple Rain are recordings used for costume changes and don’t really belong on the concert’s list. When I go to a concert that promotes a new album, I expect half of the material will be new. This leaves plenty of room for crowd pleasers. The show felt like it was 80% from Lemonade. Where was Single Ladies, If I Were a Boy, Sweet Dreams, Telephone, Beautiful Liar, and Listen or One Night Only from Dreamgirls? *Sigh*
The costumes were a mess. A few were amazing and did Beyonce justice (silver jumpsuit and military jacket were both spectacular on her). The rest were lacklustre. One all black number with a hat can only be described as Quaker chic. Another was meant to be Antebellum style but looked more like a sheer dressing gown that Blanche from Golden Girls would have worn. But what offended me was Beyonce being clad in Gucci’s signature ‘G’. You’re bloody Beyonce. You don’t have to advertise for designers—you’re a fashion icon. Especially when they aren’t the exclusive designer for the tour. I’m guessing that if I noticed, Balmain, DSquared, Givenchy and Roberto Cavalli, who designed your other outfits for the tour, did too.
Lack of an artistic team. The best way to describe this is by comparing Beyonce’s show to a Lady Gaga show. Gaga is prepped and planned with her artistic team at the Haus of Gaga and the show has a unity and cohesive glue that binds everything together. Gaga’s shows are artistic, visual and take the music to a new level. It tells a story. Beyonce lacked this and likely requires a strong team like Gaga to help elevate her music. At times I would have preferred to have heard the music in a club than at the show because it just went flat.
Back in 2007 I was offered front row tickets and backstage passes to see Beyonce’s The Beyonce Experience tour. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to attend because I was out of town and always regretted it. Over the last decade we’ve watched Beyonce grow from the leader of a girl group to being one of the most iconic performers of our time. What I love about her music is that she always conveys a strong empowering message and lifts her fans up. I expected her concert to be an extension of this and sadly I left disappointed. I know that the majority of fans and critics love the show—I wasn’t one of them.