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Live Review and Gallery: Beyonce @ Soldier Field

| June 2, 2016



Soldier Field, Chicago
Friday, May 27, 2016

For Beyoncé’s first solo tour since 2013’s “Mrs. Carter Show” and her follow-up to 2014’s “On The Run” outing with hubby Jay Z, the superstar is kicking up her aspirations to U2 and Coldplay proportions. Besides being the first time she’s headlined stadiums by herself, the singer/songwriter/producer/actress who’s already sold more than a million tickets to “The Formation World Tour” designed an entirely original set to mirror the tones and themes of her second surprise visual album Lemonade (which spans pop, R&B, rock, hip-hop, soul, blues, funk, country and gospel, alongside a diverse guest list that includes Jack White, The Weeknd, Kendrick Lamar and James Blake).

Throughout the first of two mostly full nights at Solider Field (she returned Saturday), Beyoncé, her barrage of dancers and a nimble but mostly in the shadows band brought such a massive spectacle that even the cheapest seats could get a proper experience thanks to a seven-story, box-shaped video tower and movie theatre-styled sound. Beyond the surface, the set list also mirrored the new conceptual collection chronicling “every woman’s journey of self-knowledge and healing,” or as Jay Z’s grandmother Hattie White said in footage from her 90th birthday party: “I had my ups and downs, but I always found the inner strength to pull myself up. I was served lemons, but I made lemonade.”

After threats of boycotts over the use of Black Panther-inspired imagery on the Super Bowl and a marriage that’s survived torrid tabloid headlines and endless click bait, Beyoncé poured her entire soul into the opening empowerment anthem “Formation.” It was an ethos she clung to while blazing through complete and truncated versions of more than 30 tunes, keeping the encouragement going with “Run The World (Girls),” showing the guys some sex appeal during “Baby Boy” and flawlessly captivating the masses with the catwalk prowl “Countdown.”

Come the smooth ballad “Me, Myself And I,” Queen Bey took a break from the larger than life persona to thank fans for joining her on the ambitious journey and urge the ladies in particular to take stock of their personal and spiritual wellbeing. On the sonic flipside, “Don’t Hurt Yourself” and a rearranged “Ring The Alarm” both flirted with psychedelically-charged hard rock, though she soon shifted back to her soulful “Superpower” self with the assertive romps “Diva” and “***Flawless.”

In spite of all the energy, two of the more impressive moments of the two hour evening actually came from the most understated. Not only did the A-list vocalist carry an entire stadium on simply the acapella strength of “Love On Top” (which the audience couldn’t seem to stop singing until she insisted “we’re really done now”), but the romantic swinger “1+1” was completely unaffected by the rapidly increasing rainfall. They were trailed with a double header tribute to Prince that started with Beyoncé’s emotional rendering of “The Beautiful Ones” and continued with the original studio recording of “Purple Rain” being played overhead as his friend and collaborator went backstage for one of her countless outfit changes.

When she emerged for the club banger “Crazy In Love,” Bey and the girls tore up the runway and elevated the mood to pure euphoria come “Naughty Girl” and “Party.” Even more captivating was the secondary stage’s ability to quickly fill with a few inches of water and allow the troupe to sing and splash their way through confidence declarations “Freedom” and the Destiny’s Child shout out “Survivor” (as the group’s leading lady dedicated the tune to anyone who’s persevered through abuse, illness and any type of hater).

She’s sure had her share of the latter, but the firecracker-flanked closer “Halo” seemed to replace the frustration with forgiveness as a dripping wet Beyoncé figuratively cleansed any remaining demons acquired across two decades in the music biz and possibly the highest profile celebrity relationship of all time. It’s often been speculated that this generation will never produce an artist to match the caliber of a Prince, Michael Jackson or Madonna, but after slaying Solider Field (without needing to sing “Single Ladies” or “Irreplaceable”) and claiming her stake as the culture’s current trendsetter, Beyoncé is well on her way.

-Review by Andy Argyrakis, Photos by Daniela Vesco/Parkwood Entertainment

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Category: IE Photo Gallery, Live Reviews, Stage Buzz, Weekly

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