It’s hard to grasp the cultural phenomenon that is Beyoncé in 2016. Although always an icon at the forefront of the pop industry, Beyonce, despite her many years in the public consciousness, has only truly established herself as one of the primary voices of this generation with her most recent album, Lemonade. Her stunning journey into visual and musical avenues which explores both the personal and the political has seen Beyonce becoming more than just a pop singer – now she is a voice for women worldwide, for the Black Lives Matter campaign and for the oppressed everywhere. It’s been a drastic transformation and one that has turned Beyonce into the pop singer that a 2016 filled with tension and turmoil needs.
It’s this version of Beyoncé that leads to roughly 80,000 people gathering in Croke Park for her biggest Irish show to date. The show itself is an absolute spectacle. A 360 revolving stage set up, fireworks, a water pool and flames are just a few aspects of the visual onslaught that the Texan singer brings with her. Alongside this her excellently choreographed troop of dancers bring military precision to every move, worthy of impressing even the most stubborn of ‘it’s all about the music, man’ types. Her vocals are flawless and fill every crevice of Croke Park like it’s a small pub with ease.
Whilst her prolific back catalogue of hits – ‘Run The World (Girls), ‘Love On Top’, ‘Drunk In Love’ etc – has the crowd at its most excitable, it’s the cuts from Lemonade where she shines brightest. Formation kicks the set off with an electrifying jolt as Beyoncé and her dancers take to the stage in floor length black gowns. The double blast of ‘Formation’ and ‘Sorry’ are exhilarating and get the concert off to an unapologetic, empowering start. ‘Daddy Lessons’ is flawless and garners one of the bigger singalongs of the evening while the explosive ‘Freedom’ lands like a song that’s been around far longer than less than three months. Beyoncé has the ability, at times, to wander into the realms of cheesy American-isms but the material from Lemonade sees her cutting all the bullshit and performing at her most irresistible and confident.
There can be a few criticisms here and there; there’s a couple of lulls in the set with some of the slower, lesser known material and at times it can be infuriating that some of the tracks are cut short in favour of making space for a 33 song set-list with multiple interludes. However, what the crowd witnesses is far more than a run of the mill concert. The Formation World Tour is a whole show, not just a gig. It sees Beyoncé presenting so many different personalities – the angry, political defender of rights, the lovelorn girlfriend, the empowered woman, the all-American hostess – and being able to tie them together to show just how multi-faceted the human experience can be. Most people walk away from tonight feeling like they’ve witnessed something incredible and they have – it’s the modern day queen of pop at the absolute peak of her career after eighteen years in the industry. Kelly Doherty