By Michael Cerio
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — As the rain subsided and the seats opened at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday night, the sold out crowd scurried at every signal that Beyoncé might be beginning her anticipated Philadelphia stop on the Formation World Tour.
Pushed back due to serious storms, Bey began about 45 minutes behind schedule. The fans vacated their spots in beer and bathroom lines every time a bassline rattled from inside the stadium, as to not miss a moment. As music videos blared from cosigned artists, eager fans were greeted with a giant glowing cube of suspense situated on the stage. That cube would shine until 9:30pm when the thunderous sound system boomed and the THX Sound logo appeared on screen, announcing that something epic was about to go down.
As the stadium went dark, the giant taunting cube began to pulsate with color and spin slowly – flashing images of a bare Bey and a hawk in flight. This was more than epic, this was Beyoncé.
“Welcome to the Formation world tour” she announced as the cube finally spun to reveal her and her dancers. “If you came to slay tonight say ‘I slay’”.
Down the catwalk that jetted out into the field, Beyoncé led her dancers in full formation through Lemonade’s debut single and the vibe was electric. The atmosphere was so live for the first five minutes you wondered, ‘how does she top this?’, but Mrs. Carter kept turning up the intensity.
What followed was a fiery performance of “Sorry” washed in bold blue and red lights, middle fingers up, and a long scorned gaze punctuating her “Becky with the good hair” line as she stalked the stage. Commanding and emoting with a choreographed army, Beyoncé literally had a football field worth of followers hanging on every move.
Flames and fireworks dotted the sky, as Bey furiously danced through “Bow Down” in calf-high leather boots and a frill-lined one-piece. “Ladies, you run this mother” she ordered before ripping through “Run The World (Girls)” at the same breakneck speed. There was more fierce firepower on display in the first 20 minutes than most performers offer in a full show.
That cube, the one that sat like an unopened gift to start the evening, would remain integral throughout the night. It would serve as the main visual board for images throughout the show, shoot flames and fire, and regularly open to reveal performances.
As Beyoncé loosened her grasp on the crowd, the cube flashed the infamous Lemonade line, “ashes to ashes, dust to side chicks”, before splitting open to reveal sky-high suspended dancers. Beyoncé emerged in a new white and gold ensemble to perform “Mine”, before turning up once again for “Baby Boy” and Lemonade’s baseball bat-wielding “Hold Up”.
Musically the amazing thing about the Formation World Tour is the way in which Beyoncé blended a catalog of hits and material into the story of Lemonade. Fuming flamethrowers like the new “Don’t Hurt Yourself” stacked neatly next to older call-to-arms like “Ring The Alarm”. Empowering anthems like “Me, Myself, And I” fit nicely beside new tunes of reconciliation like Lemonade’s “All Night”. The singer worked a whole career of chart-toppers into her new narrative in impressive and ferocious fashion.
Also impressive was the authenticity of it all. Beyond Beyoncé’s vocals which rang true through Lincoln Financial Field, there was acrobatic dancing and pure shredding on bass, drums, and guitar from her female band.
There was no shortage of spectacle either. Shortly after the phrase “God is god, I am not” flashed along the face of Beyoncé’s energon cube of mystery, a throne emerged from beneath the stage. Fitting, but she would only sing from it briefly. It would be replaced by conveyor belts of dancing down the catwalk, intimate sing-a-longs seated on the stage, a storm of confetti, red latex outfits, and finally a barefoot splash in a pool at mid-field with her squad.
After explosions of water in her wading pool through “Freedom”, Beyoncé would wind down the night with a performance of “Halo” and a message to her loyal army in attendance. “Think about what you love and think about how lucky you are to love. I want you to sing this to that person” she said.
And with that the crowd looked to each other, and eventually back to her – Queen Bey, slayer of all things and leader of the formation.
Beyoncé returns to Lincoln Financial Field for another performance on September 29th.