Concert review: Beyonce delivers meticulously crafted concert spectacular beneath the stars

21 July 2023

The summer’s second in a would-be trilogy of pop music spectaculars all but took over Huntington Bank Stadium Thursday night as Beyonce thrilled a crowd of about 35,000 with an eye-popping, meticulously planned and executed evening of outsized, celebratory song and dance.

Taylor Swift kicked it off last month with two sold-out U.S. Bank Stadium shows that stand among the finest-ever live pop music productions. Madonna was set to wrap the trifecta July 30 at Xcel Energy Center until she was hospitalized with a “serious bacterial infection” following weeks of relentless tour rehearsals and forced to postpone the outing’s North American leg. (The move has caused many fans to speculate her health problems are far more serious than what they’ve been told.)

Like all three women, the 41-year-old Beyonce is well-known for wielding an iron fist over all aspects of her music, career and image and that fact was on full display Thursday night. (That included not allowing local press to photograph the proceedings and banning critics from bringing laptops to file a review from the venue.)

Where Swift offered a curated career overview with an eye toward her most devoted followers, Beyonce designed her entire performance around her seventh album “Renaissance,” a love letter to late 20th century Black and queer dance music. That meant a set list stuffed with samples, cover versions (“River Deep, Mountain High,” “I’m Going Down”) and remixes (most notably her epic reimagined take on “Break My Soul” that incorporates Madonna’s “Vogue,” complete with an updated spoken word interlude paying homage to such greats as Grace Jones, Nina Simone, Whitney Houston, Diana Ross and Lizzo).

As such, she skipped some of her biggest smashes, including “Irreplaceable,” “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” and “Halo.” But if the fans missed those bangers, it wasn’t evident as the bulk of the crowd spent the two-and-a-half hours screaming in pleasure, singing along and swaying to every last beat. (Shout out to the guy behind me who quite poorly sang/shouted throughout and kept banging me in the head with his bag of Beyonce merch.)

Beyonce, Crazy in Love, 7.20.23, Huntington Bank Stadium.

— Ross Raihala (Alpha Male) (@RossRaihala) July 21, 2023

Beyonce split the concert into six distinct acts (actually seven, as the “Anointed” segment was divided in two), with an encore of “Summer Renaissance,” each with its own sonic and visual theme, complete with dazzling special effects like a massive mirror ball and giant robotic horse she rode in on. All of which took place behind a towering video wall, the center of which opened up to reveal her full band (with horn section and backup singers) and the nearly two dozen dancers.

The biggest issue in an otherwise outstanding show was the pacing. She began with a half dozen mid-tempo tracks and ballads, an unusual choice given she had no opening act to warm up the crowd. Also, the lengthy breaks between acts — to give Bey and her small army of dancers the chance to change into new, ever-more elaborate costumes — cut into the momentum, although one might say the audience needed the breaks just as much as she did.

Another takeaway from the night was the big question as to why the former TCF Bank Stadium on the University of Minnesota campus is so woefully underused for tours. Indeed, the last major concert in the venue was … Beyonce’s first solo all-stadium Formation Tour in 2016. The answer, of course, is that the Live Nation-run U.S. Bank Stadium has a larger capacity and isn’t hindered by potential bad weather, even if concerts there suffer from notoriously muddy sound that gets worse the further one sits from the stage. That said, Thursday night’s weather proved absolutely ideal, to the point I stopped several times to remind myself I was sitting outside.

Highlights of the night included Beyonce’s powerful vocals (which seem to get stronger with age), a surprise appearance from her 11-year-old daughter (with rapper Jay-Z) Blue Ivy Carter, the aforementioned “Break My Soul” mashup, another remix-enhanced number in “Cuff It” and barn-burning versions of her classics “Crazy in Love,” “Love on Top,” “Formation” and “Diva.”

Overall, Beyonce’s Formation Tour — which clearly influenced Swift’s 2018 Reputation Stadium Tour — was the better concert, in part due to her truly heartbreaking cover of “The Beautiful Ones” at a time when Prince’s shocking death was still a fresh wound for fans. Still, Thursday’s show towered over pretty much everything else in the genre and will be fondly remembered by anyone lucky enough to have experienced it.

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