photos by 13thWitness/Parkwood Entertainment


When the lights finally dimmed at Beyonce's second of two Citi Field shows on the Formation World Tour (6/8), a gigantic four-sided screen began flickering and slowly rotating in the center of the stage. It was an ominous setting, not far removed from the first time Kanye West performed Yeezus songs in New York. Then the synths of "Formation," the lead single off her crazy good new album Lemonade, played over the speakers and the stadium erupted in cheers. Beyonce and her dancers strutted out, donning the hats Bey wears at the end of the "Formation" video and looking intimidating and badass as hell. It's not every day you see a mainstream artist (or even a non-mainstream artist) open with the lead single off their new album, let alone a lead single that the entire tour is named after, but Beyonce managed to set expectations high right away and still raise the bar throughout the show.

It wasn't all rise; it moved in waves, with the bangers and ballads all sequenced in a way that kept you wanting more the whole time. She never tired you out and never bored you. The show changed moods a zillion times. There was triumphant self-love, there was sex, there was fighting the power, there was partying, there was sadness, anger, and joy. Songs got paired together based on content or vibe, rather than release date, making for brilliant segues like "Mine" into "Baby Boy," or "Party" into "Blow," or "Don't Hurt Yourself" into "Ring the Alarm." That last one, her 2016 infidelity anthem into her 2006 infidelity anthem, had Beyonce spitting the most fire of the night. To see and hear her, in person, screaming the "TONIGHT I'M FUCKING UP ALL YOUR SHIT BOY" line in front of a towering light show the color of literal flames... can you IMAGINE trying to mess with that person? I don't see how you'd make it out alive.

The "Don't Hurt Yourself" section not only featured Beyonce as the unfuckwithable howler, but also a psychedelic interlude where Beyonce sat on a throne with kaleidoscopic visuals behind her as a portion of The Doors' "Five to One" played. That same section also gave her guitarist a chance to show off with a solo that incorporated Kanye West's "New Slaves." Using small fragments of other people's songs (and bits of other Beyonce songs) was a theme throughout the night. At one point, Bey and all her dancers danced to Desiigner's "Panda," which was a definite crowd pleaser. That, along with video clips she would show from time to time between songs, kept things flowing seamlessly. Bey and her dancers would run backstage for a wardrobe change and usually be back before I fully realized they were gone. The transitions were so tight, that I'd say Broadway could learn a thing or two from Beyonce.


That guitar solo wasn't the only time Bey let her band show off. Her drummer got to wild out all over "Countdown" (which transitioned out of "Hold Up" with a crazy horn intro), and her bassist was given the spotlight in "Blow." While all of them were undoubtedly talented (seeing the basslines of "All Night" played live was probably my favorite non-Beyonce part of the show), it was the one thing I'd say crossed into cheesier territory. When you're used to going to shows at places like Baby's All Right and Saint Vitus, big mainstream shows will always have a few things that normally seem cheesy -- this is true for even the most legendary people around -- but most of the stuff Beyonce embellished her show with only added to the experience. I don't normally feel the need for musicians I'm watching to be joined by a line of dancers, but Beyonce's dancers were a major part of the appeal. Like, "Freedom" is a powerful song no matter what you do to it, but it's even more awe-inspiring to have Beyonce belting it as her dancers splashed around in a pool of water with the boldest, most unwavering looks on their faces. You could say the same about the choreography in "Run the World (Girls)."

Just as Beyonce started her show unexpectedly, she ended that way too. (That is, unless you already saw the setlist from previous nights.) The show had no encore, ending on a quiet note with her 2008 ballad "Halo." It didn't need the "banger > bigger banger > biggest banger" ending that a lot of stadium shows get though; her setlist felt more concerned with what sounded best than what would keep people around. And that makes sense, because possibly more so than anyone else right now, Beyonce is perfecting the Album Artist approach in the current mainstream world. One of the reasons it didn't matter that she opened with her hit is because Lemonade is truly album-oriented music. Non-singles "Freedom," "All Night" and "Don't Hurt Yourself" got the same kinds of reactions as "Crazy In Love" and "Survivor." The crowd favorite of the night actually seemed to be Lemonade's folk-blues number "Daddy Lessons." Beyonce's evolution into the artist she is today is pretty wild, and she seems well aware of it. On stage she talked about it being 19 years since she released her first single with Destiny's Child, and she thanked her fans for allowing her to grow and for growing with her.

The show was opened by DJ Khaled, who brought out French Montana, Ty Dolla $ign, Yo Gotti, YG, Fabolous, Tinashe, Kent Jones, Swizz Beatz and The LOX. Check out a few more pictures of Beyonce's set and her setlist:


Beyonce @ Citi Field - 6/8/16 Setlist
Bow Down
Run the World (Girls)
Baby Boy
Hold Up
Me, Myself and I
Runnin' (Lose It All)
All Night
Don't Hurt Yourself
Ring the Alarm
Feeling Myself
Drunk in Love
Daddy Lessons
Love on Top
Crazy in Love / Bootylicious
Naughty Girl
End of Time


Beyonce continues her tour in Baltimore on Friday (6/10), and plays the NYC-area again on September 7 at MetLife Stadium (tickets).

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