WHEN|WHERE Now streaming on Netflix
Beyonce is all about the surprises these days.
Even though her Netflix special “Homecoming,” documenting her Coachella appearance last year, was expected Wednesday, the companion live album, now available for download and streaming at most major outlets, was not. Neither was the bonus studio track “Before I Let Go,” her version of the Frankie Beverly & Maze classic that proudly carries the marching-band vibe of her Coachella show into the future.
But the most unexpected part of “Homecoming” is how Beyonce was able to make it feel new, considering it’s about an event that even passing fans were drawn to when it streamed on YouTube live or in its rebroadcast after the Twitter meltdown that accompanied its awesomeness. It’s hard to exaggerate how incredible it is to see Beyonce lead a supporting cast of more than 200 people onstage through the stunning visual and musical two-hour spectacle.
“When I decided to do Coachella, instead of me pulling out my flower crown, it was more important that I brought our culture to Coachella,” she says in the documentary, adding that there were four months of rehearsals that went into the show that she performed twice. “I studied my history. I studied my past. And I put every mistake, all of my triumphs, my 22-year career into my two-hour ‘Homecoming’ performance.”
The shows included appearances from husband Jay-Z on “Déjà vu,” sister Solange, and Destiny’s Child, who offer a medley of “Lose My Breath,” harmony-filled “Say My Name” and “Soldier.” But it’s that massive marching band and dancers, inspired by those at HBCU, historically black colleges and universities, that makes the biggest impact. The giant horn section warms up every song they are on, while the huge percussion section give all the grooves far more depth.
“I always dreamed of going to an HBCU,” Beyonce explains early in the documentary. “My college was Destiny’s Child. My college was traveling around the world and life was my teacher. I wanted a black orchestra. I wanted the steppers. I needed the vocalists. I wanted different characters. I didn’t want us all doing the same thing. And the amount of swag is just limitless. The things that these young people can do with their bodies and the music they can play, the drumrolls and those haircuts and the bodies – it’s just not right. It’s just so much damn swag. It’s just gorgeous. It makes me proud. I wanted every person that has ever been dismissed because of the way they look to feel like they were on that stage killing it.”
The behind-the-scenes access to “Homecoming” is important. It provides context and sure-to-be-discussed moments like when a frustrated Beyonce tells her team, “Until I see some of my notes applied, it doesn’t make sense for me to make more,” and then heads off, leaving Jay to uncomfortably follow her out.
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However, those scenes interrupt the momentum building in the powerful concert. Maybe Beyonce, who wrote, directed and produced “Homecoming,” can do a director’s cut that just lets the music play. That would be another great surprise.