It’s Sunday, October 2 and I’m at Nissan Stadium in Nashville surrounded by thousands of people. We’re all here for one reason: Beyonce’s Formation World Tour.
This scene is so different from the first time I saw Beyonce perform live and in person. It was the year 2000 and Destiny’s Child was performing at an outdoor music festival in my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama. I’m sure I paid less than $20 for my ticket. Now, Beyonce is arguably one of the most famous women in America (if not the world) and fans forgo paying their rent to snag a seat at her shows.
One thing you need to understand is that a Beyonce concert is not just a concert. It is a women’s empowerment conference, a church service, a personal growth seminar, and a professional development workshop all rolled into one epic event. Beyonce is the greatest performer of our generation and if you think otherwise you can fight me.
Beyonce has been in the music game for 20 years and the Formation World Tour has been a celebration of her two-decade journey to the top. Beyonce and I are the same age, so I’ve grown up with her music. As Beyonce has experienced her grand trans-formation, she’s provided the soundtrack for my own.
The Formation World Tour is not simply a concert. It is a call to action.
Mrs. Knowles-Carter opened the show, of course, with her hit song “Formation.” She and her dancers took the stage dressed in all black, complete with the black wide brim hats that the “Formation” video has now made one of fashion’s hottest trends. The high energy choreography set the tone for the rest of the night with Beyonce never missing a beat as she belted out her pro-black, pro-woman lyrics. Beyonce opened her show urging all of us women to get in formation. Then she spent the rest of the show demonstrating exactly how to do so.
“Slay. All day.”
The Formation World Tour was my third time seeing Beyonce perform live and in-person (the second time being her 2013 On the Run Tour with husband Jay-Z) and she gets better every time. This is why I was willing to pay for VIP seats, just as I had three years prior. Beyonce can work a stage, any stage — the main stage, the stage at the end of the runway and even the runway itself. She was everywhere! The fact that she can sing and dance — in heels — for nearly two hours and never miss a note or a step is mind blowing. My friend Mia with whom I attended the show kept turning to me to ask, “Is she human?” At one point my friend declared, “I think she’s an X-Men.”
But Beyonce is human and it’s knowing this that motivates me to aspire to my own brand of greatness.
In addition to her fiery vocals and captivating choreography, I was awestruck by the visual elements of the large display screens that were a part of the show — particularly the gigantic moving video cube that served as the backdrop for the stage (that I began to refer to as the black girl magic cube). Instead of simply using it to project the action on the stage, Queen Bey also used it to add interactive visuals to the spectacle, most likely making for a fantastic show for anyone in the arena, regardless of where you were seated.
As I have grown up watching Beyonce create herself into the megastar she is today, her performances have constantly reminded me to strive for excellence always.
“Love God Herself”
Some people get all in their feelings when I refer to Beyonce performances as “church,” thinking I’m implying she is to be worshiped. But when Beyonce declares in her song “Don’t Hurt Yourself” that “when you love me, you love yourself — love God Herself” she’s not claiming that she thinks she is God. In fact during those lyrics the onstage screens displayed: GOD IS GOD; I AM NOT. Her point is that God lives inside each of us, a message she made even clearer before she sang “Me, Myself & I,” a track from her first solo album, Dangerously In Love. Bey took some time to talk just to the ladies in the audience, declaring that “There is no such thing as a weak woman.” She said that women are strong and can endure anything as long as we nurture our relationship with ourselves and listen to that small voice inside us that seeks to guide us. That voice, she said, is God.
My relationship with God has always been a complicated one, but like Beyonce, things are finally starting to get clearer as I understand that, as Alice Walker once said, “Any God I ever felt in church I brought in with me.”
“Always stay gracious…”
Beyonce’s humility astonishes me. Despite being, well, BEYONCE, she continually thanked us fans for being there Sunday night, even going so far as acknowledging the traffic and long lines some had to endure to make it to Nissan Stadium.
Beyonce reminds me to always be supportive of and thankful for those who support me.
Likewise, she reminds me to pay homage to those who paved the way for my successes. The Formation Tour included a tribute to the late, great Prince. Resting on her knees on the floor of the stage, Beyonce performed a soul-stirring rendition of Prince’s “The Beautiful Ones.” Then she left the stage. The massive cube split into two halves and turned to purple as “Purple Rain” played in its entirety. We, the audience, sang along passionately and lit up the night sky with the flashlights of our phones.
“I took some time to live my life…”
Bey blended both the original version and remix of “***Flawless” into her show. In one of my favorite lines from the original cut, Bey sings, “I took some time to live my life/but don’t think I’m just his little wife.”
At one point in the show the giant cube of black girl magic displayed video footage of Beyonce with her husband and her daughter Blue Ivy.
Beyonce demonstrates that being a boss and being a feminist doesn’t mean you also have to be aloof about your romantic relationships. As a fiercely ambitious business woman who’s also madly in love with her husband, I appreciate Beyonce showing me that there is no contradiction in being both.
To me, living your life also means making your work fun. Beyonce always appears to enjoy every second on stage. I distinctly remember one moment during the show in which she seemed to lose herself in the music. Beyonce was having such a great time dancing she looked over to one of her dancers and just started to giggle like a school girl at a summertime block party.
And I must confess that’s actually why I don’t have many photos of the show to share with you, dear reader. Sunday night I challenged myself to be fully present and to not be so caught up in documenting the show that I didn’t enjoy it. And this is another lesson I took with me once I left Nissan Stadium, too: Be present, I now whisper to myself often.
“I’m a grown woman. I can do whatever I want.”
Sampling songs from her entire discography (including her Destiny’s Child days) Beyonce took us on a journey through her transformation from a teen dreaming of one day topping the pop charts to a woman who basically breaks the Internet every time she does anything. (“Changed the game when that Lemonade dropped. I stopped the world!” Beyonce boasted with hip-hop inspired bravado in one performance.)
At the show I considered my own transformation, too. At that Destiny’s Child performance in 2000 I was 19 years old and earlier that day I had just purchased my first car with money I’d saved by working two jobs all summer. When Beyonce, Kelly, and Michelle sang “Independent Women” I got chills. I threw my hands in the air and sang with reckless abandon. Fast forward to Sunday night. As I heard a few lyrics of “Grown Woman” woven into music toward the end of the show I thought about how far I’ve come since that summer day in 2000. I’m at a point in my life where I not only own a car, but a house, too, and I’m building a business that allows me to be able to afford VIP seats at a Beyonce concert. But more important than financial success, I have confidence in who I am what I’m meant to do in this world and the courage to do it.
I left Nissan Stadium wondering what’s next for Beyonce, wondering what her next project will be and how she can possibly top all she’s done thus far. And I left excited about what’s next for me, excited about my next project, determined to top all I’ve done thus far.