The Renaissance World Tour is ballroom. Beyoncé is beat for the gods, rocking shimmering mesh bodysuits and fierce BeyHive ensembles. She moves with robotic precision, making stank faces that cut through the camera.
The Black Parade was in full swing in Minneapolis Thursday evening, with a two-and-a-half-hour performance by Beyoncé that included nine costume changes, 34 songs, 22 backup dancers, and four backup singers.
Minneapolis was Beyoncé’s fourth U.S. stop on the tour for her seventh studio album, “Renaissance,” which celebrates club culture and Black and queer music pioneers. The 41-year-old performed for more than a million fans earlier this year on the European leg of the Renaissance World Tour.
Huntington Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus was alive with a dazzling display of fashion. Attendees wore shimmering bodysuits and silver sequin dresses, and adorned themselves with rhinestone fringe cowboy hats and thigh-high boots—the signature ensemble for Beyonce’s Renaissance rodeo.
A sea of 35,000 fans eagerly immersed themselves in the rhythmic and celestial world of the one and only, Queen Bey.
Embracing Black girlhood
Although Beyoncé’s generation preceded mine by a few decades, her music possesses a timeless quality that continues to resonate with fans across multiple generations. From my earliest memories, Beyoncé’s music has been the ever-present soundtrack of my life. My sister and I spent hours choreographing dance performances for our family, bickering over which Beyoncé verse to sing and deciding where we would stand on our imaginary stage.
In the middle of our living room, two Black girls passionately reimagined Beyoncé’s early discography, belting out, “Na, na, na, diva is the female version of a hustla.”
Now, at age 21, it was surreal to find myself in the presence of someone I had admired for many years, and who played a pivotal role shaping my journey to embracing my own Black girlhood.
Long before “Renaissance” was released last summer, Queen Bey’s commanding presence and music had earned her the title of “that girl,” and her songs have the power to make listeners feel that same level of fierceness.
The concert’s grand entrance Thursday featured a colossal Progress Pride flag, which supports LGBTQ communities of color, displayed on a towering video screen, creating a space where queer people felt seen and celebrated.
Bey served as her own opening act, captivating the audience with six soul-stirring slow ballads from “Dangerously In Love” and “Flaws and All” to “1+1+” and “I Care.” Her soulful renditions also included tributes to Rose Royce’s “I’m Goin’ Down” and Tina Turner’s “River Deep, Mountains High.”
While she may have departed from some of her more commercially popular hits, her artistic integrity and willingness to explore new creative territories solidify her status as a trailblazing force in the music industry.
Queen Bey performed 14 songs from “Renaissance,” remixing the tracks with fresh energy and a powerful sense of liberation.
Her decision to center “Renaissance” and weave in bold choices that deviated from mainstream crowd-pleasers demonstrated her commitment to celebrating diverse and underrepresented voices in the music world.
During “Break My Soul,” Beyonce paid homage to the trailblazing Black female musicians who paved the way for future generations, from the iconic Rosetta Tharpe to the soulful Aretha Franklin. Their names were displayed across the screen as Bey infused their legacies into the song’s outro.
Queen Bey’s tribute extended to contemporary artists who continue to redefine the landscape of music. She acknowledged the talent of Lizzo, Tierra Whack, and the influence of Lauryn Hill, Janet Jackson and Missy Elliot. Not forgetting her own family’s legacy, she also recognized her sister, Solange Knowles.
‘Get your fork and your spoon’
The concert, divided into six thematic segments with titles like “Opulence” and “Motherboard,” took the audience on a futuristic odyssey that also captured the vibrant underground ballroom culture of the 1990s.
The “Renaissance” album departed from Beyoncé’s three prior albums by not featuring an accompanying “visual album” of visually opulent music videos. However, the concert embedded cosmic, queer, and glamorous visual interludes between each segment that more than made up for this absence, satisfying the audience’s craving for the artistic visuals the music of “Renaissance” evokes.
Acknowledging this absence, Queen Bey addressed the crowd during the introduction to “Formation.” The resounding voice of drag legend Kevin JZ Prodigy (also featured in “Pure/Honey”), echoed throughout the arena: “You’ve asked for the visuals. You’ve called for the queen. But a queen moves at her own pace, bitch. She decides when she wants to give you a fucking taste. So, get your fork and your spoon if you got one.”
The visuals transported the audience to an all-chrome sci-fi intergalactic disco world. A giant silver horse occupied the center of the stage through some songs. Beyoncé’s voice on the video reverberated through the crowd: “My Renaissance, my house of chrome, where I’m reborn. Where you at?”
A moment of existential questioning followed as a voice asked, “Is this all there is?” Fans remained attentive as the video screen unveiled a robot version of Beyoncé.
In her performance of “Plastic off the Couch,” Beyoncé emerged from a larger-than-life seashell while fireworks erupted from the stage. The world of “Cozy” enveloped the audience in a dreamy sea of pink.
And as if the show couldn’t get any better, Beyoncé surprised the audience by bringing out her 11-year-old daughter, Blue Ivy, during “My Power.” Introducing her as “kinfolk,” Blue Ivy emerged from beneath the stage dressed in the same red uniform as her mother and the backup dancers.
Blue Ivy first appeared on the tour in Paris, where she initially displayed some shyness while dancing. However, any nerves she may have had seemed to vanish as she confidently kept up with seasoned dancers, infusing her movements with unparalleled energy, precision, and personality. The young prodigy effortlessly commanded the stage, leaving the audience in awe of her undeniable star power.
As I watched her command the stage with her larger-than-life presence, I couldn’t help but wish for a more intimate glimpse into the woman behind the superstar persona. A brief moment of vulnerability, a personal story shared, or a heartfelt interaction with the audience could have added a touch of intimacy that would have made the experience even more unforgettable.
Nonetheless, there was no denying that Beyoncé’s talent and passion shone through every moment of the show. The magnetic pull of her performance invited the audience to let go and fully immerse themselves in the moment. We were not mere spectators, but active participants, guided by the queen herself because after all, ballroom is a collective experience.
For Black queer individuals like myself, the concert offered an empowering space to revel in a celebration of identity, liberation, and pure joy. “Renaissance” is a testament to Beyoncé’s ongoing reign as the queen of both the stage and our hearts.
“I hope you feel seen,” Beyoncé said at the end of the concert. “I hope you feel safe. I hope you feel loved. I hope you feel connected.”