I may have seen (repeatedly so) every publicly available piece of Beyoncé-related footage to date – that’s just how deep, strong, but at times slightly resigned (journalism school taught me to practice objectivity) my adoration of and intellectual respect for this highly-gifted artiste rolls. I hope that made sense to you in some way. My neurons are a little fried from that mindblowing performance. What are we to do with ourselves?
It certainly goes without saying that missing her first time as headlining act at Coachella was not going to happen. No ma’am.
Live-streamed via Youtube from Indio, CA., USA on Saturday night, I made sure that I set my Sunday morning alarm to experience history, even if it was 7 hours in my geographical past. Wearing my pink Superwoman branded onesie and enjoying a bowl of cereal, my eyes were glued onto my computer for the moment we’ve all been waiting for one full year.
In true Beyoncé fashion, our queen (the first ever WOC to assume the Headliner badge of honour) did the most in representing Us finely and with a whole lost of jazzyness at the music and arts festival traditionally known for its more rock/pop/indie leanings.
She pranced down the ramp dressed in a regal Queen Nerfititi-inspired cape designed by Balmain’s Olivier Rousteing, dragging a cane, and flanked by her constantly fierce army of dancers who themselves donned body suits with the face of the iconic Egyptian Queen, Cleopatra VII, emblazoned on them.
A very strong message on the divine and powerful female. Striking!
The cultural symbolisms however do not end here. This was one intentional and sharply-considered show – not at all a surprise to me. Don’t we already know who Beyoncé is?
The concept? I can only really come up with a descriptor of ‘College-Marchingband-Louisiana-Pride’. Only because my sense of language currently feels so overwhelmed. Anyway, this concept held me in ‘awed out’ suspension from the very beginning of her performance where a soulful, rich rendering of uncle Hov’s Family Feud set the tone – a seemingly awkward start even in light of its recency/relevance/current-ness?
Mrs Carter then goes on to perform what seems to me to be ALL of her hits. I made it a point to record this, because of my fascination with musical narrative, but I do know that it’s going to take me hours to get around to giving my review of each of the items.
Here is the list, in order:
(1) Crazy in Love
I actually enjoyed this version of her 2003 record with its somewhat chopped and screwed (the cool kids say ‘swaggy’, right?) interpolation of the Swizz Beatz produced ‘I’m a Hustla‘ (by Cassidy). Her bubby, Hov’s, on that hook if you ain’t know. As a major linchpin in her ‘crowd warmer’ song category over the years, I was pleased to get a slightly transmuted offering. I’m not sure if it made sense to the Coachella kids, but she definitely did that for Hip Hop.
She then somehow segues into (2) Freedom. No sign of Kendrick unfortunately.
In a surprising sort of ‘let us pray’ moment, she angelically sings out the first verse of Poet, James Weldon Johnson’s song, Lift Every Voice and Sing which I personally had never heard before.
This song is said to be endeared by the African American community – so much so that it’s considered the National Anthem for Negroes. How wonderful? Here are the lyrics:
Lift every voice and sing
till earth and heaven ring,
Ring with the harmonies of Liberty.
Let our rejoicing rise high as the list’ning skies.
Let it resound loud as the rolling sea.
Sing a song full of faith that the dark past has taught us.
Sing a song full of the hope that the present has brought us;
Facing the rising sun of our new day begun.
Let us march on till victory is won.
Next up – and fittingly so – is (3) Formation . The BeyHive goes crazy!
It’s here that she seems to introduce a new (I’ll assume temporary) ideation to her performance functions: a lined-up group of men that to me somehow gave off minstrel/clown vibes – if one is to analyse their ‘personas’ . She calls these the ‘Bug-a-boos’ – a group of men known for their annoyance, really.
I automatically think of the original Destiny’s Child hit – which she’s stated isn’t her favourite song on her catalogue – 1999’s, Bug a Boo. Interestingly, this video had a drum majorette with marching band scene. Hmmm… maybe this is where the inspo for her Coachella performance might have come from. Archives!
So Bey then assertively (and perhaps hopelessly?) demands each one of them to “make me laugh!”… and at each point asks the ladies in the audience: ‘did that make us laugh?’ – to which we obviously express how unimpressed we are. Right, ladies?
Queen Bey continues on this and poses 3 trenchant girl-talk questions:
“Ladies, are we smart?
Are we strong?
Have we had enough?
Bey and her dancers then break into a drum-line style expression Sorry‘s uncharacteristic ‘…suck on my balls…’ exclamation. It’s such a courageous delight… and I believe so damn necessary.
As women, and mostly in the realm of romantic relationships, us being sweet (or diplomatic) about our heartache and disappointment – caused by the men we love – isn’t always helpful or fair on us. What does history tell us?
And so… the demand becomes this: exercise your power, even if it means being spicy with him.
Sometimes we just need to keep the sensitivity at bay and approach chauvinistic/lying males with a bit more spice – speak up and exist with more power!
It makes me think of a line I once read online last year in the wake of a dark wave of the abduction, abuse and murders at the hands of men (both strange and familiar) of young women in South Africa: “Black men are the white people of black people.”
This speaks to the fact of black women being the most degraded, disregarded, disrespected, and unprotected in society – even, far too often, by our very own men. So, our only option if we are to re-write our narrative, really is to stand up for ourselves, uphold ourselves and claim our power.
So no, we haven’t yet been able to laugh.
(5) Me Myself & I
Definitely one of my absolute favourite Beyoncé records. Those lyrics will strengthen/embolden your entire perspective on what your true portion in love and life are.
(6) Kitty Kat:
“Since 16 I’m coming’ down reppin’ Texas; how you gon’ neglect this? You was just a hot mess…. You can call Tyrone, you ain’t gotst’a lie Craig…’’, the Queen exclaims. Yaaasss, Slayoncé!!!
Add to that, the requisite pinch of spice: He better call Becky with the good hair…
(7) Bow Down
(8) Drunk in Love
At this point, BB is for some odd reason standing atop the audience on a suspended crane – strapped up in a harness. I didn’t really understand why. Visuals, I guess.
All of a sudden, as an intriguing thematic tie-in with her and Hov’s 2013 hit, the dour voice of the legendary Nina Simone starts to sing out the lyrics to Lilac Wine. Beyoncé is clearly giving us open-book vibes here… and maybe also a bit of a soulful music history lesson!
“I lost myself in a cool damp night
gave myself in that misty light
was hypnotized by a strange delight
under a Lilac tree.
I made wine from the lilac tree
Put my heart in its recipe
It makes me see what I want to see, and be what I want to be.
When I think more than I want to think
Do things I never should do
I drink much more that I ought TO drink
because it brings me back you.”
Thereafter, a reprisal of ‘Drunk in love’, followed by a chant of Irreplaceable and Diva. Ok… ok…. ok….
Let that music speak for you as it always has, darling. So powerful.
We’re saying: Yes I love you with my whole heart – but don’t ever forget who I am and what I’m capable of.
Just to lighten the mood a little, Queen B’s marching band takes a quietly brilliant and truncated go at Hov’s ‘Dirt Off Your Shoulder’ – this is followed by a mean dance routine to O.T Genasis’ ‘Everybody Mad‘. OH MY GOODNESS! You say this is a mom of 3? Where?!!!
The video to that is making its rounds on social media – but just listen to the song and visualise her doing the thaings!
I am OBSESSED!!! I think I need to call up my sister so we can learn that dance routine. LOL.
Asahd’s doting father and hype man of them all, DJ Khaled’s voice is then heard shouting something about ‘new name alert’: #BEYchella. LOL! If you get it you get it, if you don’t…well.
(10) Top Off verse
This moment is such a party. Like, imagine you have all your great mates and there’s stunning percussion, horn section and whatever else makes for a vibe. This was it, plus Les Twins never disappoint.
I almost didn’t notice that Yoncé had rushed backstage for her second outit change….Almost. Haha.
(12) Don’t Hurt Yourself
Uh huh… and I die for how this song selection does a beautiful, magnificent dance with the next. Don’t hurt yourself [BECAUSE] I care. Let that simmer.
Whosoever has ears, let him hear…
(13) I Care
Such a surprise hearing this song – a gem – being performed. It’s a rarity…
(15) Mi Gente’
I wasn’t crazy about this one but She’s featured on this clearly much loved club hit by J. Balvin and Willy William.
(16) Baby boy
No, no, no
BeyHive will recognise that this is not her first time doing justice to this Dawn Penn classic. Fuh real!
Sister Nancy’s Bam Bam then introduces..,
(17) Hold Up
(19) Check On It
(20) Deja Vu
The instrumental (which sounds and feels so powerful and diviiiine) takes us back to what I still believe was is some of her finest moments as far as her musicality is concerned.
Oh, and yes… another outfit change is taking place here.
It’s a vibe as an instrumental of the suave as hell Roc Boys takes us into the next song. I’m talking horns, vigorous body movements… all of it! Hov then pops out of nowhere, and I just see what feels like some awkward performance interaction between her and Bey on stage… Pause.
I suppose his presence was necessary for the song Deja Vu’s sake, but he honestly didn’t bring anything special onto the stage this time around for me – and this is coming from a major Jay Z fan.
(21) Green Light
Marching band makes the magic happen here!!!
Bey comes back in a different outfit, thanks Coachella for having her as 1st black woman to headline – dedicates the next performance to the women that opened the doors for her
Of courrrrse this had to happen. When we rise higher, we’re all about bringing our beloved along with us. The sisterhood between the 3 ladies is unquestionable. Girl is also just one of those incredible songs for me…
(23) Lose My Breathe
(24) Say My Name
(26) Get Me Bodied
This is definitely a family affair for Beyoncé as we then see our other favourite lady, Solange run onto the stage for a cute sibling dance off. What a time!
(28) Single ladies
Ever the gracious soul, the woman whose done so much for us feels the need to thank her fans and also explain to the audience how she’s had time to dream up this show all year since she couldn’t perform in 2017 due to being pregnant with her twins (to which she says ‘thank GOD”. Yes, mama.
”I love to see your familiar faces”, she says. Who does that? ❤
Last song for her ride or die fans:
(27) Love On Top
“Great job, guys”, she says as the marching band performs Shinin‘ which creates a jovial, light-hearted and inspirational mood – great way to end the set.
As the stage lights dim down, the celebratory noise, applause, firecrackers just keep on going – jubilation! It finally happened, and we are grateful for the motivation to last us the rest of 2018.
So, from my count, 27 of her original songs were performed – with a surplus of others performed instrumentally.
Way to go Mrs Carter!