Beyoncé is not sorry.
Not for her $450 million net worth or her daughter’s baby hair and Afro. Not for her legion fans in the Beyhive (however misguided their rage, sorry Rachael Ray), or her deeply personal and political exploration of infidelity, blackness, feminine power, and beyond in her bomb-drop of a visual album, Lemonade.
And when she performed “Sorry” at Monday's Formation World Tour stop at TCF Bank Stadium, all rage and hell-hath-no-fury, she cracked a smile as she shooed away her malefactor with the line “Stop interrupting my grinding (You interrupting my grinding).”
It was a shrewd fissure in the fourth wall. Behind the many layers of Beyoncé, an undeniable charm and warmth is waiting to soften the storm she’s just summoned. I am angry, she says, but I am in control.
This might be Beyoncé’s greatest power — her ability to jockey seamlessly between soft and hard, rage and grace, coquettish and downright fiendish. She holds within her the many angles and facets of womanliness that her fans want to see onstage. She is all the parts they see and often silence in themselves.
And they are ready, very ready, to get in formation.
When the unmistakable opening notes of the tour’s eponymous song rang out, the Minneapolis crowd erupted. They’d been wound as tight as a twangy slide guitar. After finding their seats and dancing obligingly through the opener (DJ Drama with a surprise visit from Wiz Khalifa), fans were ushered out due to a brief weather evacuation. Being pent up in the sweaty bowels of the stadium did nothing but turn their pegs tighter.
Suddenly at the right of the stage appeared a cluster of dark figures with those iconic wide-brimmed black hats bouncing in time. The crowd was on tenterhooks. Is she among them? Is that her in the center? Where is she? Stage left of course. We were jerked back that way, twitchy eyes finally spying her, a tension released. There was much shrieking. A thundering bass shook the crowd from toes to sternum.
The powerful call to action of "Formation" segued into “Sorry” with the sly bridge of Brenda Lee’s “I’m Sorry,” the first of many interludes in which images and scenes from Lemonade flashed on a towering, rotating, three-dimensional screen center stage. The no-apologies tone continued with a string of commanding tracks: "Kitty Kat," "Bow Down," and "Run the World (Girls)."
Fans expecting a narrative arc like that of Lemonade — anger, apathy, emptiness, forgiveness — were delivered instead a series of vignettes, vacillating between fiery red and sparkling white, vengeful vixen and fun-loving pop-star. If she’s head-banging to the Doors while sitting on Huey Newton’s wicker throne in one set, bellowing like a woman possessed, she’s just as convincingly flipping her hair to the carefree “Baby Boy” and “Countdown” in the next.
For their part, the crowd seemed more stoked about stoking her rage than soothing it with the salve of love songs (“1+1”). The hive members damn near lost their minds at the lines “Better call Becky with the good hair” and “Tonight I'm fucking up all your shit boy.”
Beyoncé has covered Prince on previous Formation Tour dates, and she gifted Minneapolis one of the most stirring and successful tributes in “The Beautiful Ones.” The line “Do you want her or do you want me?” makes this an obvious fit for the theme of the tour, but the floor-writhing breakdown was even more on point. Beyoncé is as physical a performer as the beloved man himself.
An interlude of “Purple Rain” played to a blank purple screen brought the iPhone lights out and the tears to eyes. The moment was especially poignant because the members of Prince’s 3rd Eye Girl were all sitting in the front rows.
“How do you follow that?” my companion asked.
With a bit of “Crazy in Love” and a cover of Vanity 6's Prince-written hit "Nasty Girl," that’s how. The show rolled on, even as more of those menacing clouds rolled by overhead. The finale was a literal splash with Beyoncé and her 16 dancers stomping through a shallow pool, sheets of water droplets jumping and hanging in the lights. It was a wild and reckless backdrop for “Freedom” and “Survivor,” a bit of old and a bit of new but all raw, self-possessed strength.
Before thanking her fans and disappearing into the stage, she belted out a satisfying, uplifting (where’d all that rage go?) version of “Halo.” She reminded everyone to follow their dreams and they too might be on the stage someday. A few drops began to fall. Or was it still falling from all the splashing? By then we would have believed Beyoncé could summon the rain.
Notes on the opener: Wiz Khalifa made a surprise appearance to bask in the glory of his Billboard Music Award from the night before. He performed the song that won him that award, “See You Again,” about the death of Paul Walker. Then DJ Drama went back to playing fuck jams.
Critic's bias: "The Beautiful Ones" is my favorite Prince song. The noise I made when Beyoncé began her cover was not a human noise.
Nitpicky point: Occasionally the bass got a little out of hand, swallowing up the treble on “Daddy Lessons” and “Baby Boy.”
Random notebook dump: Tremendous opportunity for scoping out fashion trends and clubwear. Aside from so, so many high heels (you’re slaying your metatarsals, ladies!) there were many rompers, many tiny shorts, and much underbutt. Beyoncé would be proud.
And is there any other circumstance where it would be more appropriate to go pantless? The woman wearing fabulous white panties and a sheer, white floor-length skirt would give a resounding no. “If not now, when? If not me, who?”
Overheard in the crowd: “That concert was like ... freedom.”
The crowd: Easily one of the Twin Cities’ most diverse gatherings in every way, except gender. Old, young, black, white, gay, straight, the ranks of the Beyhive are as wide as they are deep.
For the most part, the throngs of rompered fans kept it cool enough to make it through the weather evacuation without triggering a stampede. This writer’s very real fears of being trampled into the scaffolding by thousands of summery wedges were mercifully never realized.
Getting home was a bit of a clusterfuck as the light rails were overflowing with concertgoers. We needed some of those Japanese train pushers to pack us in properly.
The setlist (or something close to it):
Run the World (Girls)
Me, Myself and I
Runnin' (Lose It All)
(Naughty Boy cover)
Don't Hurt Yourself
Ring the Alarm
Drunk in Love
Rocket (Mashed up with D'Angelo's "Untitled (How Does It Feel)")
Love on Top (A cappella)
The Beautiful Ones
Crazy in Love
Nasty Girl (Vanity 6 cover)
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