Since starting out in what now feels like humble beginnings as the front-woman of Destiny’s Child, Beyoncé has evolved into the biggest and most revered artist of our time. When it comes to creativity, showmanship and sheer talent, she has everyone beat and trailing far behind her. Beyoncé’s journey to this stage in her career is no small feat or stroke of luck, since the tender age of 19, she has sung and danced her way into a lane of her own where her only worthy competition is herself.
The Formation World Tour– which touched down in London’s Wembley Arena this past weekend- was as much a concert as it was a display of the undeniable superpower that is Beyoncé. Coming into focus from behind a giant rotating HD monolith, Beyoncé addressed the crowd ordering them to yell ‘I SLAY!’ before delving into the anthemic ‘Formation’, a song that caused huge controversy when she performed at the Super Bowl dressed as the Black Panthers. But here, the political was toned down in favour of a much fiercer and celebratory performance of one’s unique and uncompromising slay.
The track is taken from the star’s sixth studio album Lemonade which was a surprise release in April of this year. It saw Beyoncé showcase new levels of vulnerability and political awareness by densely weaving the alleged rumours of husband Jay Z’s infidelity with the historical and contemporary struggle of many black people in America, specifically black women. By combining the two on stage, Beyoncé is delivering a wonderful and inspiring manifesto for the unapologetic black woman.
She seemed to dart between her older songs to her most recent material on Lemonade with a level of ease that other artists would be hard pressed to mirror. Considering the conceptual nature of an album like Lemonade, Beyoncé fleeted effortlessly between the Beyoncé of then to the Beyoncé of now. In fact, it was when she started with ‘Don’t Hurt Yourself’ and ended with ‘Ring The Alarm’ or when she got the crowd singing along to ‘Sorry’ to only switch it up with a stunning acapella rendition of ‘Irreplaceable’ that you began to realise that the Beyoncé heard on Lemonade has probably been there all long, just waiting for the right time to unleashed.
Songs such as ‘Me, Myself and I’ once felt like just mere observations of failed relationships but in the wake of Lemonade’s running narrative of Jay Z’s rumoured infidelity, it was given a new meaning that was once lost between the slick production and pristine vocals.
Though the giant monolith that took centre stage provided some of the most striking and truly awe inspiring visuals of the night, it was when it was just Beyoncé and her mic that she was at her most enthralling. She performed ‘1+1’ on her knees whilst demonstrating the true power of her voice with a level of passion and vulnerability that I am still trying to find the words to explain. If it wasn’t enough to be driven to floods of tears at that point, she sung fan favourite ‘Love on Top’ completely acapella as the entire audience at Wembley Stadium sung in unison and when you looked around the stadium small dots of light emitted from their mobile phones resembling stars as nightfall fell over London. It’s a true testament to the might of Beyoncé that the 80,000+ strong audience just kept singing the song with ever ascending key changes as Beyoncé just stood and took it all in.
In between demonstrating her exceptional vocal abilities with absolute ease, Beyoncé showed just why she is so often referred to as Queen B as she danced, with perfect precision and not a step or turn out of place, to some of her biggest hits including ‘Run The World (Girls)’, ‘End of Time’ and ‘Countdown’. Signature hits ‘Crazy in Love’ and ‘Bootylicious’ were merged together in one 3-minute medley while ‘Single Ladies’ was omitted from the set list all together but all that was forgiven when she performed ‘Freedom’ from her album ‘Lemonade’. The song has become the unofficial anthem to the Black Lives Matter movement and Beyoncé performed it while on a stage ankle deep in water and with every kick, flip and turn fans in the front rows were splashed with water as if to symbolise some sort of sexy baptism before rounding it off with an apt rendition of ‘Survivor’, which given the context, was given a completely new meaning. Naturally, the crowd went wild.
In true Beyoncé fashion she closed the show with ‘Halo’, something she has been doing for years now but given the crowd’s reaction, it’s easy to see why she keeps it that way. As she walked across the stage showing off her incredible vocal range with a British flag draped behind her it signalled the end of a show that was in every sense of the word; flawless.
Beyoncé is undoubtedly one of the greatest artists of our time and the Formation World Tour just further reinstates the fact that she will go down in history as one of the greats. Her tribute to Prince was made even more poignant when you got the feeling that while we said goodbye to one legend earlier this year, at that moment we were in the presence of another. Beyoncé said that the first ever concert she went to was Michael Jackson and she would always dream that one day she would, like him, be performing in stadiums in London. On the 2nd July 2016 that dream was well and truly realised and while the two are constantly compared, people should stop chasing for “this generation’s Michael Jackson” because this generation has their very own Beyoncé Giselle Knowles Carter and I for one am glad to be living in the era of Beyoncé.