Images Andrew White + 13th Witness
When Michael Jackson did the moonwalk during his performance of ‘Billie Jean’ on the Motown 25 television special in 1983, all who witnessed it had fallen to the floor and nobody ever managed to get back up as he kept on hitting the world with more musical poetry and performances that became increasingly greater with each subsequent show. Michael had set the bar for live entertainment so high that no other artiste after him truly gave the excellence that he brought with him — that is of course, until Beyoncé took over the world post-I Am… Sasha Fierce.
Roll your eyes and say what you’d like, but there is no living artiste who commands attention to their music the way Beyoncé does with hers. This is probably due to what Beyoncé presents during her shows; she is determined to give fans a liv(f)e-changing experience instead of just poorly coordinated flailing and pre-recorded singing. She doesn’t request for the spotlight to flicker on her for a few seconds to give the illusion that she’s disappearing, no, she wants it there so people could envision what meeting God would be like. But on a serious note though, there is thought for detail to everything that she chooses to have on stage.
For The Formation Tour in particular, Beyoncé has scripted a storyline that reflects her recent album Lemonade. She begins the spiritual journey with ‘Act 1’, which features ‘Formation’ as the opening track, then ‘Sorry’, ‘Kitty Kat’ (we’re still wondering what she was thinking during the production of its music video), ‘Bow Down’, and ‘Run The World’.
From an energetic and rather optimistic setting, the show becomes darker with visuals of Beyoncé pulling out a blade from her mouth accompanied by the sane narration she used in the Lemonade movie (“Is this what you truly want? I can wear her skin over mine…”). The screen then flashes with crimson images of Beyoncé breaking mirrors as he recites “Ashes to ashes, dust to sidechicks,” which is used as an indication for the theme of ‘Act 2’ – and an opportune moment for anyone that has been in that position to scream their hearts out to.
The show’s atmosphere becomes aggressive throughout ‘Act 3’ while maintaining an empowering vibe, especially during ‘Don’t Hurt Yourself’ that’s got BaddieBey strutting on stage while yelling, “Who the f*ck do you think I am?” Just as she’s about to reach the best part of the song (“If you try this shit again, you gon’ lose your wife”), she transitions to ‘Ring The Alarm’ – but it’s not the pop version that we were blessed with in 2006. For this iteration, Beyoncé sits on a throne (which has magically appeared on stage) and growls into the mic singing, “I’ll be damned if I see another chick on your arm, don’t you ring the alarm,” then it breaks to the sound of sirens and a choreography reminiscent of Janet Jackson’s untouchable dance routine during ‘Rhythm Nation’. As if those elements weren’t enough to send a member of the BeyHive into a shock, a sample of ‘Independent Woman’ is dropped, which naturally sends the crowd into a screaming frenzy.
But Beyoncé is smart, she knows to keep her fans on their toes. She doesn’t want you to pass out from excitement during the first hour of her set — no, she’s going to keep you in a state of trance until she breaks out ‘Halo’ at the end of her show.
As the set progresses, the atmosphere becomes lighter to reflect the theme of love included in songs like ‘Love On Top’, ‘1+1’, ‘Crazy In Love’, and ‘Party’. Just as everyone is about to pull their sanity together, the interlude of her final act plays; a montage of Beyoncé practising with Destiny’s Child at her home, moments from her wedding day, being with her family and Blue Ivy — and to amplify emotions, ‘Die With You’ is played in the background. This is an appropriate moment to think, “Yes God, I want to die here,” because Beyoncé just reminds us that we had seen her grow from a teenager who sang at her mother’s salon to now being a mother, a wife, and this immortal musical Goddess; we’re basically witnessing history; we are feeling the greatness that those who saw Michael Jackson felt. It’s an extraordinary feeling — no doubt that it’s covered with nostalgia and sentimentality, but that’s the beauty of music, isn’t it? Its ability to resonate with you.
After causing waterworks, the stage begins to fill with water, which means only one thing; she’s about to perform ‘Freedom’. Just as we’re about to admit the strength this particular performance is embodying, Beyoncé asks, “Do we have any survivors in the house tonight?” And then she breaks out ‘Survivor’, of course. It’s at this moment that the crowd properly loses their minds. The crowd becomes riotous and are singing the lyrics even louder than the Queen herself; it’s like a moment of awakening. Beyoncé then urges everyone who has survived racism, illnesses, bad relationships, sexism, and other personal obstacles to chant “I’m a survivor.” And at this point, the crowd is at their most content even though many had been crying while dancing.
She ends the emotional rollercoaster that was her Formation Tour with ‘Halo’, which has been the perfect way to end her shows since 2009. She runs the world, she causes it to stop; she is the greatest living entertainer the world will see.
Beyoncé’s performance at the Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California was part of her Formation World Tour which began in April ’16. This show went down on Saturday 17 September ’16. JUICE managed to catch this leg of The Formation World Tour thanks to Levi’s.