Jun 16, 2016

@Beyonce Formation Tour, An Experience by Katriece Davis

I wouldn't consider myself someone who gets starstruck easily, and it's important to note that I'm not even a Beyoncé stan like that. I haven't loved an entire album of hers' since B'Day, and it took me a couple listens to really appreciate Lemonade. Let's not get it twisted, she's Beyoncé. Google the hardest working woman in show business and Queen Bey pops up first. She's known for bringing Michael Jackson level perfectionism to her performances, and choreographs with damn near military precision. So hell yea I was excited when my mom surprised my sister and I with tickets to Formation Tour!

Beyoncé Knowles-Carter probably caters to the most diverse audience in pop music, so I really didn't really know what to expect. In my mind it would go something like this: Southern Gothic imagery, dramatic interludes accompanied by spoken word, 19th century Creole doily fashions, Mardi Gras costumes. A WEALTH of natural hair, textured hair, braids. You get the idea. I was imagining something like "Lemonade LIVE", and I was curious as to how some of the more socio-political themes would translate onto a big stage.

Let me REALLY set the scene. I went to the show at the Lincoln Prudential Center in Philly, Sunday, June 5th. The stage’s centerpiece was a 50 foot rotating high definition video tower, and two large monitors on either side of the stage. Looked pretty simple at a glance. The show was delayed about an hour and a half because of thunderstorms, but honestly nobody seemed to care. Like divine intervention the clouds dispersed and the sun came out, only 20 minutes after the scheduled showtime.

Everyone's favorite hype man and self proclaimed Snapchat King, DJ Khaled came out to greet us around 8:00pm and got the party started with a big "Make some noise Phillyyy!" He was joined by the bawse Rick Ross, and Philly's own Meek Mill. I was a little surprised to see Meek, but apparently he was granted permission to perform, even though he's still serving house arrest. They had a 40 minute set, but given the delay the crowd was full of anxious energy. Finally at 9:30pm the sound system booms, the lights go off, the big cube in the middle of the stage starts flashing and rotating slowly, and the THX Sound logo shows up on the monitors to let us know it's about to go down.

The tower completes its 360 and comes to a stop to Queen Bey in a black unitard and wide brimmed Black wide rimmed hat. The screen magnified her to giant size, making every seat in the stadium feel like the best seat in the house. The backup dancers marched in perfect formation as Bey led them through Lemonade's debut single. Following was a spirited, middle fingers up, performance of Sorry that had every woman out of her seat. Surely everyone knows by now that Sorry is the breakup anthem of the year, calling for every jilted woman out there to say "Boy Bye" I could feel my mom side eyeing the hell out of my sister and I for singing "suck on my balls", but we were completely caught up in the moment. Dancers were suspended and twirling from wires, all of the dancers were women, if not women of color. There was so much Black girl magic on that stage I felt transcended. Mrs. Carter also gave lots of shine to her band. Her drummer, Venzella Joy Williams had a dope extended drum solo at the end of Bow Down/Tom Ford, this show was FUN.

I encourage anyone who is going to a show on this tour to put your cellphones DOWN. Don't watch this through your phone. There were times during the show where cameras zoomed in on the audience at floor level. This one girl had Beyoncé right in front of her face, holding her hand and she wouldn't put the phone down. WHY? You're at a Beyoncé concert. There were a lot of surprise throwbacks like Dangerously in Love's Baby Boy, B’Day’s Kitty Kat and Destiny's Child single Bootylicious. These made some of the earlier songs she performed feel like they were from a different artist altogether. She shouted out Nicki Minaj during Feeling Myself, and according to Nicki's Instagram she was in the audience that night screaming along with the fans. Don't Hurt Yourself, my favorite song on Lemonade, and my favorite performance of the night happened after a short interlude. The lead guitarist was shredding for her LIFE! She added Kanye West's New Slaves to the intro. It was more than fitting as a throne ascended from the guts of the stage holding Beyoncé in a long red fur mantle fit for a queen. If that was the last performance I saw all night I think I would've been satisfied.

Bey slowed things down with ballad, Me, Myself, and I showing off her powerful vocals and reminding us all that she is a singer first. Oh, in case anyone had doubts, she sang a flawless acapella rendition of Love on Top, that everyone in the audience joined in for of course. Another memorable moment of the night for me was Bey's heartfelt cover of Prince's The Beautiful Ones. She belts out the words on her knees in front of two large purple screens, and the stadium becomes speckled with cellphone lights. Wild screaming erupts when the voice of the late Pop genius himself comes out of the speakers singing Purple Rain. Towards the end of the show, the platform at the end of the catwalk was turned into an ankle deep pool water, and Beyoncé and her dancers stomped and kicked and splashed for a visually stunning and playful routine. They perform the Destiny's Child hit Survivor, which segued seamlessly into Freedom It was pure spectacle, and a powerful performance. The camera zoomed in on a smiling, barefoot Beyoncé, who gave an almost childlike jump at the end of the routine, and gave a shoutout to her dancers and band. The last song, Halo she dedicated to her husband. Somehow Beyoncé managed to guide us through key emotional and cohesive themes from Lemonade like anger, hurt, hope, and redemption, and still kept things light and fun with lots of surprises. Of course there were fireworks, pyrotechnics, and a ton of confetti, but to me the surprises were a little more personal. Because Beyoncé is such a private celebrity, she gets a pretty bad rep for being cold and impersonal; however what I got from this show was that she made the fans feel seen and appreciated. From the short dance number to O.T. Genasis’s Cut It, (a coy little nod to all those "Beyoncé Always on Beat" videos) to the short cameo of fans and YouTubers raving about Lemonade. One of my favorite YouTube personalities Evelyn of the Internets, made it into the clip and it was awesome. In the words of Evelyn, "F**k a Linkedin, Beyoncé knows my name!" The Formation Tour is pretty formidable in every way. Beyoncé doesn't disappoint, and is arguably the best live entertainer of our generation.
Jonathan C. Ramsey
Jonathan C. Ramsey

Multimedia Journalist, Founder and Chief Editor of WTM Host of A-Side B-Side Podcast and more. I like to talk about stuff and write it down. Sometimes to a microphone. Either way, I need you to feel this.

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