On Beyoncé’s Renaissance Tour, the world is her ball

The crowd had come to dance, dressed for a far-future rodeo: glittering cowboy hats, silver fringe, over-the-top sunglasses and whatever other costume detail represented “Renaissance,” Beyoncé’s dazzling seventh studio album and the occasion for her first single. Tour in seven years. But when the pop empire star took the stage at Toronto’s Rogers Center Saturday night for the first North American show of her Renaissance World Tour, she reminded the club-ready crowd just who was in charge. Because if they were ready to move, she would make them wait a little longer.

Setting the table for a two-and-a-half-hour performance that was visually stunning, vocally ambitious, and sometimes disorienting, Beyoncé, 41 — in a shimmering mini chain mail dress — kicked off the show for about 30 minutes. Child’s 2001 “Dangerously in Love,” a bit of “Flaws and All” from the deluxe edition of her 2007 album “B’Day,” and the soulful “1 + 1” from 2011, which she strung atop a mirrored piano.

It was a display of her lightness and an oddly traditional way to kick off a show centered around an album as conceptually daring and forward-thinking as Renaissance—a sprawling reference show through the history of dance music, emphasizing the contributions of black and queer innovators. Here, instead, was a medieval stopover for Beyoncé.

As a live artist, she has gained a fresh start. The Renaissance World Tour performances are some of Beyoncé’s first appearances since her dazzling and headlining performance at 2018’s Coachella festival (later released as the concert film and live album “Homecoming”), which marked somewhat of a career culmination of her career so far. It would be useless to repeat it, and it is difficult to get over it. The loose “Renaissance”, still said to be the first part of a trilogy, marked a new chapter in Beyoncé’s recorded work. Once the show finally found its center, however, it welcomed the crowd into a renaissance that, however late, heralded her maturity as a performer, too.

Evoking the appearance of a show – as seen in crystal clear definition on a panoramic screen – Fritz Lang”Metropolisby way of the 1990 Drag Ball documentary “Paris Is Burning”. After a lengthy video introduction, Beyoncé emerges from her cocoon of vines and goes through a rousing stretch of the first set of “Renaissance” songs. During the most striking “Cozy,” a pair of Hydraulic robotic arms center her body in artificial picture frames, like the posthuman Mona Lisa.

In May, as Beyoncé kicked off the European leg of her Renaissance World Tour, rumors swirled that she might have been recovering from a foot injury, since her choreography was steadier and less heavy than usual. The Toronto bid did nothing to dispel this chatter, but it also showed that it didn’t matter much. Perhaps due to some limitations, Beyoncé has embraced new means of physical expression. She brought the flavor of ball movements to the show and served her face all night, wrinkling her lip like a hungry predator, widening her eyes in mock surprise, and washing her features in exaggerated disgust.

Few seats in the stadium offered a clear view of Beyoncé’s face, of course, though the screen took care of that. She expertly played with cameras following her every choreographed move, aware of how she would appear to the majority of the audience—and perhaps just as importantly—in her FOMO-inducing social media videos. The stage itself was picturesque, featuring an arching section of screen made for hilarious images, but its full grandeur was not visible from many of the side seats, which made the band and sometimes the dancers difficult to see.

Despite that, the screen was the point. Beyoncé’s two single releases prior to “Renaissance”—her self-titled album from 2013 and “Lemonade” from 2016—have been described as “visual albums,” featuring a fully realized music video for each track. And again playing to the expectations of her fans, she hasn’t yet released any “Renaissance” videos, giving the previously unseen graphics that filled her expansive background added impact, and making it feel more weighty than a comfortable way to pass the time between costume changes.

Many of the tour’s outfits balanced Beyoncé’s signature styles — megawatt glamor, high-cut lingerie — and the futuristic bent of “Renaissance.” She played the couture bee in Casey Cadwalader’s custom Mugler and shimmered in a crystal-encrusted Gucci corset. But the most memorable look of the night—and one that was so instantly iconic that few fans actually tried to replicate it, from photos of the European shows—was a flesh-coloured catsuit by Spanish label Loewe, accessorized with a few evocations of red fingernails. .

Throughout the set, Beyoncé weaves interpolations of her predecessors’ songs throughout her songs, as if to put her music on a larger continuum. The great “I Care” was spun off into “River Deep, Mountain High” in honor of Tina Turner, who passed away in May. The upbeat rendition of “Love on Top” contained elements of The Jackson 5’s “Want You Back.” Most effective was her “Queens Remix” of “Break My Soul,” which mixed “Renaissance” with Madonna’s “Vogue,” as a tribute. to the mainstream pop star who brought queer culture to fans before her. (The merchandise was on sale at a Renaissance Tour pop-up shop in the days leading up to the show, and included a portable fan decorated with the title of the song “Heated” for $40. Sold out.)

The show contained moments that sometimes felt conceptually crowded and counter to the sharp vision of the “Renaissance” album, such as bedroom poster quotes from Albert Einstein and Jim Morrison that filled the screen during the video montage. The middle stretch, which arrived with a spirited “Formation,” featured Beyoncé and her dancers wearing a camouflage print, riding horses and sometimes writhing atop a back-up military vehicle. There was a silent gestural strength at the moment she and her entourage raised their fists in the air, signaling the salutation being given. annoyed Some easily thrilled viewers at the 2016 Super Bowl Halftime Show. But if Beyoncé is calling for any more specific forms of protest or political awareness—particularly at a time when drag culture and queer expression are under threat at home and around the world—she’s gone. These figures are without explanation.

Beyoncé’s stamina as a global artist has remained the show’s raison d’être. She is the rare major pop star who appreciates live vocal prowess. By the end of the long night—and especially during the stunning closing number, the disco fairytale “Summer Renaissance,” when she floats above the crowd like a deity on a gleaming horse—she stretches out the mic to give some high notes to her excited, adoring fans. “Until next time,” she said, keeping the on-stage banter relatively minimal and pat. “Drive home safely!”

Even as Beyoncé embraces styles and cultures known for their improvisational weaknesses, she still strives for perfection—a pageant smile always threatening to pierce her stinky face. Leading a stadium-sized audience, she was an introvert in extrovert armor. This tension is part of her boundless charm and occasional limitations as an artist. It also makes moments of genuine spontaneity all the more precious.

Naturally, the #R RenaissanceWorldTour has been trending on Twitter long after the show, but one of Clips that went viral It was unplanned. During a rousing performance of the hit song “Diva,” Beyoncé accidentally dropped her sunglasses. She held them for a second, uttered an expletive as they fell to the ground, and gave a sincere shrugged smile before returning to the choreographic formation. For a fleeting moment, she seemed human after all.