Music

Beyoncé Knows Exactly What We Need

todaySeptember 5, 2023 1

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The shimmering of SoFi Stadium was practically blinding.

It started with a seemingly simple request from someone who doesn’t usually ask for much. As Leo season concluded and Virgo season commenced, Beyoncé made a rare Instagram post asking that fans coming to her upcoming shows wear their “most fabulous silver fashions” to grant her a birthday wish. And suddenly, it didn’t matter that tickets were hard to get or that many fans had been waiting years for Beyoncé to roll back through town.

Folks by the tens of thousands took to Etsy, thrift stores, designer boutiques, and their parents’ closets to find something to fit the bill, to sparkle and shine in Beyoncé’s presence. Even the most casual of dude threw on some grey jeans or a charcoal shirt. At worst, as acclaimed writer Roxane Gay noted, it was a slight annoyance. But for the vast majority of eager participants, it was a chance to take an already special occasion and turn it into the kind of collective experience that is both exceedingly rare in contemporary life and increasingly successful when executed on a massive scale. From Barbenheimer to the Eras Tour, life in 2023 feels more vivid and vibrant when you are experiencing it en masse with others. And at the Renaissance Tour during Beyoncé’s birth season, that moment was bathed in chrome.

It made for fun people watching, as mirror ball-reflective cowboy hats and glittery body paint and retro suits and sequin dresses gathered in the state-of-the-art football stadium. It was enough for Beyoncé to beam with joy as she made her way through the set’s relatively relaxed opening numbers. She commented on how amazing those in the front looked with their distinct silver fits, smiling wide that so many had answered the call. And while the fans could feel content that they had granted Beyoncé’s “B-Day” request, the truth is that Beyoncé knew exactly what the fans needed to take an already monumental tour to the next level. It further cemented the sense of community, giving those in attendance a sort of uniform as Beyoncé supporters. And hell, it just looked really cool.

This is a defining trait of Beyoncé, an artist who displays pristine intentionality in everything she touches. While her evolution from standout girl-group member to generational musical force has developed over the decades, her choices keep finding the Venn diagram of what is right for Beyoncé and what her fans need looking more and more like a perfect circle. There was her 2013 Super Bowl triumph and adventurous return three years later; the surprise self-titled album release; the shift to more nuanced capital-A Art on Lemonade and its accompanying movie, a Coachella appearance that redefined what a festival set can be; and then, coming out of the pandemic, an album that pushed people out of their homes and into the shared spaces that felt like they might never return to. She’s a chessmaster thinking multiple moves ahead, giving fans exactly what they need and allowing them to feel like they are giving it right back.

Kevin Mazur

But as much as fans did give it back to Beyoncé, it still always feels like a candle compared to a sun when in her presence. For nearly three hours on Friday night, she danced, sang, and presented an engrossing spectacle centered around her latest album. There were moments that felt specifically centered around Blackness, others that focused on femininity, and still others that honored the queer dance culture that heavily influenced the sound of the record. She provided her fans an in-person glimpse at the status of her first foray into motherhood as daughter Blue Ivy showcased the performer’s DNA that runs through her blood by dancing during “MY POWER.” She gave a rare opening set from DJ Khaled, who in turn paraded out a steady stream of rap royalty, including Coi Leray, Offset, 2 Chainz, Wiz Khalifa, Roddy Ricch, and an abbreviated Lil Wayne, who unfortunately had microphone delay issues. And with her actual birthday falling on the last of her SoFi stops, Los Angeles got a special treat with the return of “The Big 3” as Beyoncé returned “THIQUE,” “ALL UP IN YOUR MIND,” and “Drunk In Love” to the setlist for only the third time on tour, while the actual birthday show on Monday saw appearances from Diana Ross and Kendrick Lamar.

Los Angeles might not have nailed the on-mute-moment during “ENERGY,” but they certainly were up for the key changes of the “Love On Top” singalong. Still, an element of the concert felt like Beyoncé preparing fans for the future. Beyoncé turned 42 yesterday, and while her time as a dancing, stadium-selling artist is far from over, she also proved that if she ever went the Adele route, she’s more than equipped to let her vocals be the star. The whole first portion of her set is geared around this, as she simply stands and sings and basks in the glory of the moment. Later in the set, she appears inside a giant sea shell that feels directly ripped from the Vegas crooners of yesteryear. If she ever does fully pivot in this direction, it will be for an audience that is aging with her.

But for now, Beyoncé is still proving that she can do it all, enrapturing millions of fans across continents with a massive show. She knows she can elicit screams by interpolating a tiny bit of “Say My Name” within “VIRGO’S GROOVE” or can bring chills to tens of thousands by simply saying “Los Angeles” in her unmistakeble, husky speaking voice. She knows she has an ace in her back pocket if and when she decides to release the visuals fans have been clamoring for. She’s a master for walking that tightrope of knowing the right amount of music, merch, and content to keep fans both satisfied and wanting more. The trust that people put in Beyoncé is well-earned, and was never more tangible than in the sparkling reflective color scheme across SoFi Stadium. Beyoncé asked for a gift, only so she could give one right back.

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