Inside Beyonce’s Formation World Tour

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Hold up, the Formation World Tour is officially over. That’s right, the reigning queen of the music industry, Beyonce Knowles-Carter, wrapped up her 49-stop stadium tour on the 7th of October, 2016 – marking her 7th concert tour since 2003. Officially grossing over a whopping 250 million dollars, this historic tour, the title of which is inspired by her controversial 2016 single, ‘Formation’, reached millions of people around the world, from London to Los Angeles, selling stadiums out across the globe – the mark of a real megastar. The Formation Tour commenced just four days after the release of her second visual album and overnight cultural phenomenon, Lemonade, which  was described by Billboard as “a revolutionary piece of black feminism”, boasting 5-star ratings from Rolling Stone, The Independent, The Daily Telegraph and numerous other major publications. Without a doubt, The Formation World Tour has undoubtedly been the hottest ticket of 2016. But what exactly made this tour so special, and how has it been so successful despite competition from other powerhouse performers like Adele and Rihanna? We’ve broken down our five top reasons why the Formation Tour was such a hit.

1. It’s Beyonce…(duh)…

What else can we say? Mrs. Carter needs no introduction and her overwhelmingly impressive career speaks for itself. In the eyes of her BeyHive, the ‘Queen Bey’ can do no wrong, and after nearly twenty years of producing party bangers, pop ballads and show-stopping records, this woman is yet to slow down or even miss a note or a beat.

2. NO ARENAS ALLOWED! Stadiums only…

Showing once again, that she has ascended into the realms of the legendary, Beyonce pulled off a stadiums-only tour, in a fashion exclusive only to mega-acts like Michael Jackson, Elton John, Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi. Beyonce went from selling out Wembley Arena in 2003 (12,500 people) to selling out Wembley Stadium twice (about 70,000 people per show) in true superstar fashion. Many ‘big’ and successful artistes have found out the hard way that scheduling a show for a stadium-sized audience could easily leave them with a half-empty crowd. Beyonce is not one of them. Everything Beyonce does – every performance, every concert, every album release – is an event that no one wants to miss. This clearly translates into ticket sales which reproduce at an alarming rate, and Beyonce is no stranger to sell out events, having already conquered the Super Bowl twice, Glastonbury and other prestigious venues all over the world.

3. Her Repertoire – Nothing but hits!

LEMONADE marked Beyonce’s 10th studio album release – her sixth as a solo artiste, holding an extra four with former girl group Destiny’s Child. This means that Beyonce has more than enough material in her arsenal to fill up a two hour show, performing newer hits like ‘Sorry’, ‘Run the World’ and ‘Flawless’, and older ones like ‘Irreplaceable’, ‘Survivor’ and ‘Bootylicious’. At times, Beyonce was forced to leave out major hits from the show’s setlist (she just has too many). But a lot of these were represented with short snippets, intertwined with other songs. Freakum Dress and Independent Women are just two of her singles left out of the show but utilised in this way, despite being proven BeyHive favourites. The fifth segment out of six notably opened with microphone-distorted vocals on top of the Fifty Shades of Grey remix of 2003 Grammy-dominating hit Crazy In Love, before seamlessly transitioning into the original version, complete with its now-iconic horn intro for the remainder of the song.

Beyonce often shows how up-to-date she is with the modern music scene by incorporating snippets from other R&B and hip-hop artistes into the setlist, sometimes breaking the flow of the show to perform a ‘dance break’ to one or two of these songs. These included Desiigner’s Panda, O.T. Genasis’ Cut It and Shawty Lo’s Dey Know (included as a tribute shortly after he passed away). Beyonce also paid tribute to Prince, who she performed with at the 2004 Grammys, singing Beautiful Ones before a Purple Rain interlude and purple confetti shower towards the end of the show. Beyonce is no stranger to musical tributes, having mashed-up Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You with her own ballad Halo for her Mrs. Carter World Tour in 2013. All of these, combined with her own original musical array attest to the general consensus that there is no artiste in the game with Beyonce’s diversity, slaying pop ballads, trap hits,  reggae, hip-hop, country and even rock and roll.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=40020b94Avk

4. Fashion

Not only were the audience treated to incredible discography, but Beyonce left the audience in awe with her spectacular, dramatic stage outfits. Beyoncé is no stranger to a figure-hugging bodysuit and enhanced her edgy style by incorporating exclusive designer pieces inspired by Victorian street wear, sparkling crystals and pure seduction. The grand entrance to the show included a gothic, DSQUARED2 look, featuring two bodysuits to complement her figure: a delicate embroidered lace as well as a crystallised fishnet. In order to manufacture the the key stand-out piece – the wide-brimmed hat – the hat-maker had to travel to Mexico to buy sombreros to use as the base of the design. This is a testament to the true dedication and pride Beyonce and her team take in every aspect of the show, with none being neglected or valued below the rest, whether it’s the music, the graphics, the lighting or the attire, which many performers seem to neglect as an crucial and integral part of the whole experience.

In contrast, Beyonce’s angelic Balmain bodysuit incorporated beautiful French floral lace, styled to sophistication with grey knee-high boots. A real crowd pleaser (and, we guess, a Jay Z pleaser) was the daring sanguine-coloured latex costume, designed by a home-grown London designer named Atsuko Kudo. The puffy shoulders and ruffled neckline still kept to the Victorian theme alive, whilst remaining in tune with the sexy, revealing design loved by Beyonce and her Hive. Notably and deservingly, Beyonce was the recipient of the CFDA Fashion Icon Award for 2016, awarded by the one and only Diane Von Furstenberg.

5. STAR-POWER (on the stage and off)

Beyonce has dominated her craft for so long that she’s reached a new level of celebrity status. Beyonce has been described by her contemporaries as the ‘ultimate-celebrity’, with the Formation World Tour proving how much influence and respect she commands among the celebrity BeyHive. Beyonce, unsurprisingly, received a huge critical reception from mega-singers like Sia and Katy Perry, actors like Channing Tatum, Leonardo DiCaprio and Bradley Cooper, not to mention her bestie, Gwyneth Paltrow. Other famous personalities in attendance were the Kardashians, Victoria Beckham, Lea Michele, Kerry Washington, Shay Mitchell, Elle Fanning, Tyler Blackburn, Laverne Cox, Hugh Jackman, Amy Schumer, Yara Shahidi, Christina Aguilera, Vanessa Hudgens and Jennifer Lawrence.

6. “Pulling a Beyonce” – The Queen of Secrecy

2011 was a big year for Beyonce. Not only did she release her fourth solo album, 4, but she also ended her upbeat VMAs performance of Love On Top by unbuttoning her bedazzled jacket and revealing her baby bump, an event which generated buzz at a rate of 7196 tweets per second, more than anything Twitter had ever experienced in its history…and just like that, Beyonce became the Queen of Surprises. So it’s no surprise, then, that her next album, was a complete bombshell, appearing out of nowhere on iTunes in the dead of night, suddenly made available to million of unsuspecting and unemotionally-prepared fans around the world. Many other artistes have since adopted Beyonce’s surprise-release strategy, a phenomenon now described by music lovers as “pulling a Beyonce”. Rolling Stone’s Rob Sheffield described the release as “a celebration of the Beyoncé Philosophy, which basically boils down to the fact that Beyoncé can do anything the hell she wants to.” Artistes to follow Beyonce’s example include Drake, U2, Frank Ocean and  of course, Beyonce herself, with the surprise release of Lemonade two and a half years later. So, our top pick for the best thing about The Formation World Tour is…SURPRISE!!!

I – Beyonce surprised her audience in Barcelona by performing her 2006 hit song Irreplaceable entirely in Spanish, as if they needed more of a reason to believe there was nothing she couldn’t do. The Queen of Diversity strikes again!

II – New Orleans-based rapper, known affectionately as the Queen of Bounce, is famously heard saying “I came to slay, b****”” in the music video for Formation, surprise-release early in February, the day before the FWT was announced. In every show on the tour, Beyonce had included her fellow queen’s pre-recorded vocals. But of course, as she is the Queen of Surprises, Beyonce brought out Big Freedia in the flesh to recite her famous lines, dressed in a black outfit and hat which matched Beyonce and her dance troupe. The audience, naturally, was here for it.

III – After the horrifying and earth-shaking deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile earlier this year, Beyonce performed an a capella renditon of Freedom after asking for a moment of silence. The names of many key figures of the Black Lives Matter movement were displayed on the monolith  (nickname for the big screen) behind her, such as Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland and Trayvon Martin, for whom she attended a rally in New York in 2013, and whose mother is seen holding a picture of him in the Lemonade visual album. Beyonce has reportedly donated millions of dollars to the Black Lives Matter movement. In one show, she also altered a part of the choreography to incorporate the “hands up, don’t shoot” signal in homage to the same movement, which promotes equality for all people and an end to police brutality and injustices against people of colour.

IV – Beyonce went all out for her closing show at New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium, bringing out her husband, hip-hop mogul Jay-Z for a surprise performance of their 2013 hit, Drunk In Love, which earned them two Grammy awards at the 2015 ceremony. Kendrick Lamar also made a surprise appearance, rapping his verse from Freedom, Beyonce’s pro-black anthem from the Lemonade album. Serena Williams also made a 30-second appearance early on in the show, rising from a hole in the stage, perched comfortably on a majestic throne, before performing movements similar to those from her surprise appearance in the Sorry video earlier this year.

V – Perhaps the best surprise of the entire show was the moment Beyonce stopped the music in the middle of a recital of the iconic choreography for Single Ladies to invite John Silver … to the stage to deliver a short speech before getting down on one knee to propose to his then-girlfriend, Ashley Everett, Beyonce’s dance captain, who appeared in the famous video for Single Ladies in 2008, which is now one of the best selling singles of all time. The moment was followed with a resumption of the choreography, which ends with Ashley Everett pointing to her now-heavier ring finger as the words “If you liked it then you should have put a ring on it” echoed through the stadium. Everything from the ironic and iconic song choice to the flawless execution made this one of the most memorable moments of the entire tour. Congratulations Ashley!

The Formation World Tour grossed $256,084,556, with the Formation World Tour becoming the 17th highest grossing tour of all time (and of course the highest of 2016), putting Beyonce well within the company of her predecessors, like Madonna and the Jacksons. For a tour that only lasted a few months, this is a terrific achievement, in comparison to higher-grossing tours which, in many cases, lasted years and included hundreds of shows, not just 49. Moreover, not only is she one of only four women in the top 20 list of highest grossing tours of all time, as well as one of only six solo acts, but she is the only African-American artist to appear on the list. There’s nothing left to be said! This tour was a major triumph and we’re holding the receipts.

Eniafe Christopher Momodu

Abiha Khan

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