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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Beyoncé returns to the stage with a ‘Renaissance’ spectacle

Beyoncé fans wait outside the Friends Arena in Stockholm, where the star began her latest tour on Wednesday, May 10, 2023. The pop superstar opened her first solo tour in seven years in Stockholm and performed tracks from her acclaimed 2022 album, but left most of the choreography to her dancers.

By Alex Marshall and Ben Sisario

They came from Iceland, Portugal, Switzerland, Detroit. Dressed in “alien superstar” chic — rhinestone boots and disco-ready, glittery cowboy hats — a huge crowd gathered Wednesday at Friends Arena in Stockholm, their cheers reaching an almost deafening pitch as a woman gradually emerged from below, lights bouncing off the sequins on her outfit.

Beyoncé was back onstage.

The singer, style icon and heroine of the global BeyHive fan community is on the road solo for the first time in seven years with her Renaissance World Tour, which opened in Sweden with elaborate visuals but with unusual physical restraint from Beyoncé herself.

Onstage at the 50,000-capacity arena, she appeared flanked by dancers and backed by a live band, performing for three hours before a giant screen that displayed a constantly morphing tableau that was part retrofuturism and part disco fantasia. At one point, the 41-year-old artist traded dance moves with a pair of giant robot arms; at another, an image of a silvery alien dancer in heels hovered over a disco ball.

But for one of pop’s ultimate dancing queens, Beyoncé’s performance was far less physical than on past tours. She often seemed to keep her feet stationary while shaking her upper body, and appeared to favor one leg. She spent much of one song sitting atop a prop.

The star’s eagle-eyed fan community speculated online that the singer was injured. A spokesperson for Beyoncé did not respond to questions about her performance.

Kristin Hulden, a Swedish fashion student who was wearing an embroidered jacket she had made that depicted Beyoncé riding a horse (the image on the cover of her latest album, “Renaissance”), said she had noticed the star’s more limited movement, but it hadn’t bothered her. “The show was so great,” she said. “The dancers, the visual — it never stopped.” Like many fans at the opening-night gig, she will attend several shows on the tour, returning to Friends Arena on Thursday and then heading to Hamburg, Germany, in June. “I’m very excited,” she added.

Competition for tickets to pop’s biggest, priciest concerts has been stiff, and many in the crowd had traveled far — even thousands of miles — to guarantee that they would see Beyoncé this time. (Thanks, in part, to favorable exchange rates, tickets in Sweden ended up being far cheaper than in the United States or Britain, costing between 650 and 1,495 Swedish kronor, or about $63 to $146.)

Rhoyle Ivy King, 26, an actor wearing a fluorescent turquoise jumpsuit and shades, said before the show that he had come from Los Angeles for the concert, spending about $2,500. “Anything for mother,” he said. “Seriously.”

Beyoncé has not toured on her own since her Formation outing in 2016, after the release of her pop-culture-dominating “Lemonade.” In 2018, she performed at the Coachella festival and hit the road with her husband, Jay-Z, for their joint On the Run II Tour.

The new tour is for “Renaissance,” an homage to decades of Black queer dance music. The LP, her seventh solo release, opened at No. 1 last summer, and its single “Break My Soul” became her first solo No. 1 hit since “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” in 2008.

It was, notably, the first Beyoncé album in nearly a decade to arrive without a full suite of accompanying videos. Starting with her surprise self-titled LP in 2013, she has become synonymous with elaborately choreographed and highly produced visual pieces.

On Wednesday, she revealed several futuristic fashion choices: an iridescent-effect minidress; a shimmery gold bodysuit festooned with black opera gloves covering strategic locations; a black-and-silver suit that resembled royal armor. At one point, Beyoncé was dressed in sci-fi bee chic: a yellow-and-black leotard with cutouts and sharp angles, and knee-high black boots. The cyborg theme was fully reflected at the merch stands, with T-shirts, hoodies and totes carrying images of Beyoncé in silvery, “Metropolis”-like robot costumes.

The set list featured songs from her debut solo album from 2003 (“Crazy in Love”), her 2008 double album “I Am … Sasha Fierce” (“Diva”), her 2011 LP “4” (including “Love on Top,” which Beyoncé let the crowd finish for her) and her self-titled 2013 release (“Drunk in Love”), alongside a host of tracks from “Renaissance,” including “Move,” “America Has a Problem” and “Cozy.” For the closer, “Summer Renaissance,” Beyoncé sat atop a silver horse that was hoisted from the rafters and then ascended above the crowd by herself, sporting a grand, sparkling cape.

In February, Beyoncé announced the Renaissance tour by simply posting an image to social media. Three months earlier, the demand for tickets to Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour had led to a Ticketmaster meltdown, leaving many fans frustrated and calling for Washington to examine the outsize market power of Ticketmaster and its corporate parent, Live Nation.

To handle the ticketing for Beyoncé’s tour — which is being promoted by Beyoncé’s company, Parkwood Entertainment, and produced by Live Nation — Ticketmaster had an elaborate plan that included rolling out sales in batches, rather than all at once, and the process went far more smoothly.

Still, Beyoncé drew controversy this year when she performed a private show at a luxury hotel in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, where homosexuality is illegal. “Renaissance” draws heavily on dance music of the 1990s and LGBTQ culture; at Friends Arena, signs denoted some “gender neutral restrooms” in the official tour font.

Oless Mauigoa, 35, had traveled from Salt Lake City and said “Renaissance” had made him desperate to see the show. “I feel like it’s dedicated to a lot of gay styles,” he said. “I’m connected to it more than anything she’s done.”

Beyoncé played into those connections throughout the show, nodding to the ballroom and vogueing culture that inspired “Renaissance” at the end of the night by giving the stage over to her dancers, who tried to outperform one another to rousing cheers.—

Beyoncé’s tour continues in Stockholm on Thursday and then arrives in London for five shows at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, starting May 29. Its North American leg will open in Toronto on July 9, will head to MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, on July 29 and 30, and will close in New Orleans at the Caesars Superdome on Sept. 27.

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