Beyoncé live in London: joy aplenty at the summer’s glitziest tour

A pleasing playfulness runs through the hotly-anticipated Renaissance tour's London stop

Long before kick-off at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in north London, the Bey-hive is already out in full force. As her Greatest Hits boom out of every other shopfront, approximately 62,000 punters are steadily yee-hawing their way down the final approach, a sea of bright pink cowboy hats bobbing atop shimmering, silver outfits. Even Frank Ocean, Jay-Z, Dua Lipa, Ludmilla, and Kardashian matriarch Kris Jenner – who bizarrely elicits the biggest cheers of all as she takes up her place – are in situ for the opening night of Beyoncé’s big, five-night Tottenham takeover. Initially emerging in Chelsea colours is just one of her many bold choices tonight.

First rising to fame as a member of the ‘90s girl group Destiny’s Child, Beyoncé has exactly twenty years as a solo artist under her belt by now. While it all began with 2003’s ‘Dangerously In Love’ – with its Jay-Z-featuring slice of pop perfection ‘Crazy in Love’ – the Texan star’s records have become increasingly varied and surprising more recently; 2016’s ‘Lemonade’ sampled Animal Collective and quoted Yeah Yeah Yeahs. At landmark shows like Beychella – the nickname given to Beyoncé’s triumphant Coachella headline show in 2018 – the artist meticulously pieced together a rich tapestry that celebrated Black art, politics and cultural expression. Last year’s record ‘Renaissance’, meanwhile, embraced the transience of the dancefloor, tracing the lineage of house music through Harlem ballrooms, sweaty Chicago basement clubs, and the marginalised groups who forged the genre’s urgent pulse in these darkened rooms.

Beyoncé may bring plenty of these heightened BPMs to Tottenham later on, but first she opts to open the show with a string of more classic-sounding ballads that show off the sheer force of her live vocal, minus any extra bells and whistles. Following ‘Flaws and All’ and ‘1+1’, there’s a breathtaking cover of the late Tina Turner’s ‘River Deep – Mountain High’. As she sings ‘1+1’ atop a metallic grand piano, right up close to fans, it all feels very intimate; a deliberate attempt, perhaps, to dismantle the pedestal she’s built herself over the last two decades.

The show’s relatively stripped-back beginnings only help to heighten the eventual melodrama when Beyoncé returns in full Renaissance garb, resembling a kind of pop star Barbarella. She can’t help but crack a smirk as she camply ejects herself from a gleaming suit of armour (insert: obligatory joke about Tottenham finally getting some silverware here) for her most recent record’s flawless run of I’m That Girl, Cozy, and Alien Superstar. From here, the sci-fi spectaculars just keep on coming as proceedings delve deep into ‘Renaissance’ – for ‘Energy’ and ‘Break My Soul,’ she abandons the main stage altogether to make full use of a circular runway in the centre of the colossal stadium.


Beyoncé performs onstage during the “RENAISSANCE WORLD TOUR” at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on May 29, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage for Parkwood)

From here, it would be easy for Bey to simply launch into a gratifying mega-medley of her biggest hits; instead, she pursues something less immediate. For ‘My Power’ and ‘Black Parade’ – two pop-trap tinged celebrations of Black joy – Beyoncés 11-year old daughter Blue Ivy makes a surprise appearance, joining the fleet of red jumpsuit-wearing dancers in their full-blown choreo. She’s the only guest of the night. As the pair give the Black power salute, their fists raised in the air, Beyoncé visibly beams. When the percussive, Major Lazer sample of ‘Run the World (Girls)’ skitters into life, it soon takes a left turn, with the live arrangement also interpolating elements of Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Alright’. Her 2016 hit ‘Formation’ is powerful and sublime.

During the many costume changes later in the show, archive footage of voguing dancers often grace the screen, while ‘America Has a Problem’ sees Bey transformed into a Thunderbirds-style puppet with hinged jaw, singing from behind her wittily named KNTY NEWS desk. Bey’s decision to omit a conventional, older hit-filled encore makes perfect sense given the singular vision of ‘Renaissance’ but the latter feels like it could’ve swapped places on the setlist with the standout performance of ‘Heated’ (complete with waving fans on robotic arms). In general, there’s also possibly room here for one more trip down memory lane that isn’t taken up.

It’s refreshing to witness the playfulness that runs through the whole show; nobody could possibly deny that Beyoncé is one of music’s most talented titans, but there’s now a lightness to her performance which offers up something new. When she’s not dressing up as a news-reading bee, she’s singing ‘Partition’ atop a comically slow-paced metallic jeep, which gingerly reverses between a giant pair of thighs. ‘Cozy’ ends with the singer nestling into a giant, silver duvet.At one point, Beyoncé can’t get a word in edgeways; the crowd essentially starts performing an acapella version of ‘Love on Top’, (complete with key-changes) of their own accord. “Definitely the loudest so far, am I going to get in trouble?” she responds, approvingly. During ‘Diva’ she gets fed up with her own sunglasses, and (gently) flings them out into the crowd.

The show closes with Beyoncé floating above the crowd atop a shimmering horse nicknamed Reneigh; her very own theatrical homage to Biana Jagger riding a horse into the New York disco destination Studio 54. In the final segment, a mini-Renaissance ball takes place. It’s these final touches that delight the most; carefully referencing aspects of both Black and queer culture with specificity, and celebrating them with a joyful wink.


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