Published May 26, 2016On Lemonade, Beyoncé reinvents the notion of "the scorned woman." No longer quiet, ashamed or locked away, she breaks free from the shackles of paranoia and jealousy, gets angry and makes it sound damn good. Gone are the insinuations, euphemisms and playful winks that sprinkled her songs in the past; Beyoncé has never sounded more self-assured than she does on her latest album, and that energy absolutely radiated from the stage at the Rogers Centre last night (May 25).
The last time Beyoncé graced a Toronto stage, she was co-headlining the On the Run Tour with hubby Jay Z, but this is a post-Lemonade world we're living in, and there was, unsurprisingly, little trace of him this time around. This show was all about her.
Embracing her role as a benevolent leader, Queen Bey stormed the stage with a message of empowerment from the second the first video montage flickered across a giant rotating, four-sided screen, as she and her army of female dancers got in "Formation." Unconcerned with conforming to people's expectations of what a feminist needs to be or who she has to represent, the song finds Bey sharing her own experience as a strong, successful black woman who is proud of her past and knows that she'll be the sole one determining her future. As the tour's namesake song, it resonated both as a declaration of who Beyoncé is and as a statement of purpose from the stage.
Nods to the past came fast and furious in the rest of the setlist, as well, with old favourites proving their staying power. Throwback highlights included "Ring the Alarm," "Crazy in Love" (with a bit of both the Gatsby-fied version and the Dangerously in Love classic) and a stunning rendition of "Me, Myself and I" that was prefaced by an inspirational introduction about the importance of self-love. It was during this speech that Beyoncé also thanked fans for supporting her and letting her grow as an artist over the last 20 years.
That artistic growth was showcased masterfully by the newer material. Beyoncé got everyone's middle fingers in the air for Lemonade anthem "Sorry," got everyone mentally smashing car windows with baseball bats during "Hold Up" and spat fire throughout "Don't Hurt Yourself."
She even brought back her cover of Prince's "The Beautiful Ones." Famously performed at her 2011 Glastonbury headlining set, Beyoncé's rendition was particularly poignant in the wake of her idol's death, and was followed by an interlude of "Purple Rain," accompanied simply by a solid purple screen on the empty stage and an arena full of people lighting up their cell phones and singing along.
After the neon-lit, disco-celebrating "Blow" and the confetti-popping "Party," Bey delivered a final punch with "Freedom," Destiny's Child hit "Survivor" and "End of Time" back-to-back-to-back on a catwalk covered in water, splashing the crowd with every elaborate dance move. When the waves calmed, she delivered her signature closer "Halo," casting her glow across the sea of devotees.
Beyoncé's latest tour is perhaps the most personally revealing to date, offering a show that serves as a testament to who she has become as a wife, mother and world famous pop star. In the midst of a ballad-heavy set, she remained proud, powerful and unapologetic, and it was a joy to witness.
Or, in the words of her own daughter Blue Ivy: "Good job, Bey."