Only Beyoncé could turn an intensely personal airing of marital woes into a stadium-worthy spectacle.
Despite the massive stage, including a 50-foot cube that served as a video screen and performance area, set up in center field, her show Tuesday night at Citi Field maintained the confessional feel of the HBO special that accompanied her surprise album “Lemonade” in April. (Beyoncé plays Citi Field again on Wednesday and returns to MetLife Stadium on Sept. 7.)
After opening with the elaborate choreography of “Formation” with her 14 female dancers, Beyoncé took the stage alone to begin “Sorry,” as if she had taken strength from the group but felt the need to do the confrontation herself.
It was a give-and-take that went on throughout the two-hour show, with Beyoncé often handing over her microphone for fans to sing or leading them as a huge chorus, especially on the glorious a cappella version of “Love on Top.”
“Do we have any queens in the house tonight?” she asked, knowing the answer. Beyoncé was looking to give her fans strength as well, telling them, “If you know exactly who you are, say, ‘I slay.’ ”
Regardless of whether the grievances she raises in songs like “Sorry” and the raging “Don’t Hurt Yourself” reflect the realities of her marriage to Jay Z or not, Beyoncé has certainly touched a nerve with the emotional yet still catchy songs. It’s a combination that not only brought her another No. 1 album and sold-out stadium tour, but it intensified the connection with her fans, many wearing homemade shirts inspired by the album to the show.
For so long, Beyoncé’s striving for perfection has made some feel like she was trying to separate herself from her fans. On this tour, she was saying, “I’m just a girl from Houston… this can happen to you.”
With such an engaging hook to her show, it’s easy to miss that she was in fine voice throughout the night, even when she was dancing at full speed.
The way she floated through “Me, Myself and I,” the gorgeous ballad from her 2003 debut solo album, was masterful, showing how she was reinterpreting her older work in light of her “Lemonade”-inspiring experiences.
It was yet another way she showed exactly why she commands so much more attention than her contemporaries. And why it is so deserved.
Beyoncé tackled rock in the thunderous “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” strutting across the stage in a cape before seating herself on a throne. She mastered country in the hand-clapping hoedown that is “Daddy Lessons,” getting the crowd in on the act. And, in tribute to the late Prince, who would have celebrated his 58th birthday on Tuesday, she delivered a lovely version of “The Beautiful Ones” on her knees.
The show was so big that DJ Khaled drew a who’s who of hip-hop for his opening set, featuring everyone from T.I., French Montana and Travis Scott to Fat Joe and Uniondale native Busta Rhymes, who did a mini-set that included “Pass the Courvoisier.”
Of course, all that star power paled to the joy that Beyoncé provided, usually all by herself. Her “Lemonade” film had several moments that made viewers emotionally uncomfortable. On the “Formation” tour, that uneasiness was replaced by a feeling of unity. “If you have had your heart broken, you know you’re going to survive, right?” Beyoncé told the crowd. “There is no such thing as a woman who is not strong, we are born strong.”
SETLIST: Formation / Sorry / Bow Down / Run the World (Girls) / Mine / Baby Boy / Hold Up / Countdown / Me, Myself and I / Running / All Night / Don’t Hurt Yourself / Ring the Alarm / Independent Women >Diva / Flawless >Feeling Myself / Yonce / Drunk in Love / Rocket / Partition / Daddy Lessons / Love on Top / 1 +1 / The Beautiful Ones / Crazy in Love >Bootylicious >Naughty Girl / Party / Blow >Nasty Girl / Freedom / Survivor / Grown Woman >End of Time / Halo