It might be chilly outside, but the energy in Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is close to going nuclear. Fans of all different backgrounds and ages, some even wearing Spurs team colours, roll in for the first of the long-awaited London dates of Beyoncé’s Renaissance tour.
The screen – lit up in television test format SMPTE bars depicting the colours of the LGBTQ+ Progress flag – is a statement that this tour is a full homage to the Black and queer roots that Beyoncé credited in her Grammy’s speech as “inspiring the genre” that deservedly won Renaissance the ‘Best Dance/Electronic Music Album’.
The digital screen transforms into a scene of clouds before it slowly unveils an image of Beyoncé, lying goddess-like in the nude with silver stars covering her nipples. The crowd leap from their seats, the cheers increasing to a cacophony of whoops.
From beneath the stage, Queen B rises in an electric blue gown. With enough wind machines to power the national grid for a week, the dress billows as her vocals soar around the stadium. Easing us in with the ballads before what we know will become an unrelenting set of club hits, Bey’s velvety vocals remind us that behind the big beats there’s a mighty voice.
Opening with ‘Dangerously in Love 2’, Beyoncé sits atop a silver piano for a cover of Rose Royce classic ‘I’m Going Down’. The section ends with a tribute to Tina Turner, whom Beyoncé duetted with at the Grammys in 2008 performing the iconic ‘Proud Mary’ with the legend. Tonight, Bey strips it back: ‘River deep, mountain high, and do I love you my oh my,’ she sings to suitably thunderous applause, before leaving the stage: it’s Renaissance time.
Embracing her alien superstar, a cyber-inspired future-forward Beyoncé steps out to the beats of ‘I’m That Girl’ before taking us through to the Honey Dijon produced ‘Cozy’ and its empowering tribute to the colours of the queer flag: ‘Blue like the soul I crowned / Purple drank and couture gowns / Gold fangs, a shade God made / Black, blue, white and brown / Paint the town red like cinnamon / Yellow diamonds, limoncello glistening / Rainbow gelato in the streets…’. We then fall headfirst into an extended edit of her other Dijon collab as ‘Alien Superstar’ is seamlessly blended with elements of ‘Sweet Dreams’.
As the section closes, the digital screen pulls us into space, projecting an enormous swirling black hole that fades into stars, and moons as we go intergalactic. ‘This is my house,’ affirms the voice of vogue performer and legendary ball commentator Kevin JZ Prodigy on voiceover as Beyoncé continues her homage to music’s queer roots, before a flashcard quotes Albert Einstein: ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge.’
When Bey re-emerges, she’s in a trippy mini-dress by designer David Koma. It’s time to ‘Cuff It’, with this live version adding elements of the Shalamar song ‘A Night To Remember’. ‘Energy’ mixes in other Bey hits ‘End of Time’ and ‘Countdown’, before we go full throttle into the ‘Queen’s remix’ of ‘Break My Soul’ and that inimitable Vogue sample while adding The Jacksons ‘Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)’ for extra sassy oomph. This is Beyoncé paying full props to the sounds and stars that came before her as the video screen flashes footage of ballroom scenes past and present.
The following act opens with past hits ‘Formation’, ‘Diva’, and ‘Run the World’. But by the time she next returns to the stage in a red crystal-studded catsuit standing atop a gigantic silver bouncing tank she’s not only justified the ticket price, but she’s done gone and already killed off all her peers.
In silver shorts and net top, Bey serves ‘Church Girl’ before ripping into ‘Get Me Bodied’, a fan favourite from her second album, then segueing into ‘Love On Top’, which gets the crowd singing along, not missing a beat or lyric. After ‘Crazy in Love’, she returns in a giant sea shell for the lush ‘Plastic on the Sofa’ and ‘Virgo’s Groove’ blended in with ‘Naughty Girl’ before the voice of Grace Jones arrives for ‘Move’ warning us all: ‘When the queen come through, part like the red sea.’
All doubts as to Beyoncé’s vocal agility are smashed to atoms when ‘Heated’ concludes the section, nailing its fiery end verse as the crowd sings along to its infamous, self-referential closing lyric: ‘Uncle Johnny made my dress, that cheap Spandex she looks a mess,’ she sings of the man who inspired the Renaissance album. (“A big thank you to my Uncle Jonny. He was my godmother and the first person to expose me to a lot of the music and culture that serve as inspiration for this album,” Beyoncé wrote in a post on the album’s release. “Thank you to all of the pioneers who originate culture, to all of the fallen angels whose contributions have gone unrecognized for far too long. This is a celebration for you.”)
Rolling through Renaissance track-by-track, Beyoncé affirms the album as a body of work that has been considered from conception in the studio to execution on tour, flowing through each song as they appear on the record.
Even the smallest of details have had the most precise attention paid, not least when Beyoncé comes back swinging for the final act in a jaw-dropping Thierry Mugler-designed robo-bee costume to perform ‘America Has A Problem’ from behind the desk of KNTY News channel as stock prices flash past listing the Renaissance album track titles. ‘Pure/Honey’ takes the energy back to the club floor, as her incredible array of dancers bring the ballroom to the stage, showcasing their body-bending art.
By the time the singer returns on the back of a mirrorball horse and floats over the crowd for the ‘Summer Renaissance’ finale, she’s made her statement, and none can doubt it: Beyoncé is in her queen era and we’re here for it.
Playing 57 dates across Europe and the USA is set to make Bey’s first solo showing since 2016 the biggest tour in music history with an estimated gross of up to $2.4 billion. To quote Beyoncé on ‘Pure/Honey’: ‘It should cost a billion dollars to look this good.’ And when it comes to the Renaissance tour, she’s poured a hefty chunk of that ticket price back into what will go down as not just the biggest, but one of the greatest shows ever.
Move out the way and all rise, ‘Queen come through.’