A trail of rhinestone cowboy hats leads the way from Seven Sisters station to Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, corner shops are pumping Beyoncé‘s back catalogue and a stampede of fans adorned with tassels and sequins march towards the show of the year. Your average Spurs game this ain’t. For five nights, there’s a new queen in town and the Beyhive have descended to experience Beyoncé’s Renaissance World Tour in the flesh. As the stadium doors open, the crowd rush the stage to get a spot as close to their leader as possible. They’re in good company too, in a golden VIP box Frank Ocean, Dua Lipa, Kris Jenner and Beyoncé’s husband, Jay-Z wait for an audience with an icon. A Progress Pride flag flickers on a towering screen; it’s the golden hour, and just as the final beams of sun shoot overhead, Beyoncé steps onto centre stage.
Draped in diamonds and a billowing cobalt blue sheer gown, she blasts into the opening act of her three-hour spectacle with a seismic vocal performance of ‘Dangerously in Love’ followed by ‘All’, ‘1+1’, and ‘I Care’ while perched on a chrome piano. Building toward a profoundly emotional tribute to Tina Turner with a spine-tingling, stripped-back ‘River Deep/ Mountain High’ rendition.
Act 2 sees the Renaissance World Tour go full throttle as Beyoncé is stripped by articulated robot arms to reveal a silver-plated bodysuit as a ballroom MC commands, “Come build this, we’re never pressed, no stress, regret, renaissance; yes!” The highly-stylised stadium is ignited to strike poses, clack open giant paper fans and erupt into a groove. Deep magenta spotlights melt into acid green as the robot arms shape-shift to frame Beyoncé before she falls into a silver duvet.
At the same time, moving from ‘I’m That Girl’ into ‘Cozy’, and an ‘Alien Superstar’ remix spliced with ‘Sweet Dreams’ flanked by 12 platinum blonde dancers in silver leather before she transcends beneath the stage. Planets osculate across the screen between kaleidoscopic sci-fi sequences, sexy cyborgs and a set of silver open stilettoed legs as a voice announces that Act 3 is dedicated to the birth of House music.
Beyoncé makes a glittering return to the stage accompanied by her backing singers, a horn section, electric guitar, a full band and more dancers. Beyoncé and the entire cast hit the sprawling runway that stretches across the “golden circle”, the Beyhive (Beyoncé’s most dedicated fans) and the highest ticket price holders in the house. She storms through pulse-racing choreography in gold crocodile motif cowboy boots for ‘Break My Soul’ and the flip of Madonna’s Vogue as names of Black female pioneering artists are emblazoned across the screen over a towering navy statue of a muscle-bound stallion.
Blood red light drenches the stadium as the stars pierce the sky, and the words ‘Opulence’ invite in Act 4, a jaw-dropping dance breakdown and the biggest gag of all. Her first born daughter, Blue Ivy cooly strikes the stage to thundering applause alongside Beyoncé and her fleet for a politically-charged choreo and montage that graduates from ‘Formation’ to Kendrick’s Lamar’s ‘Alright’, ‘My Power’ and ‘Black Parade’ which has Beyoncé driving a tricked-out, silver low-rider truck from outer space bounced by hydraulics. Performing ‘Savage’ and ‘Partition’ while holding a stripper pole attached to the roof in a ruby bejewelled custom ‘Off-White’ boiler suit. But that’s not all. Bey gives the audience a chance to come up for air in Act 5, entitled ‘Anointed’, by taking them to church with blessed versions of ‘Before I Let You Go’ and ‘Love On Top’, ending with the entire stadium belting out three octaves of the chorus acapella at earth-moving decibels.
The entire show, much like ‘Renaissance’ the album is steeped in Black queer culture and a studied, unsung love letter to the pioneers who laid the foundations. There are samples of underground drag legends Kevin Aviance and Moi Renee, appearances by Ts Madison and Big Freedia, production by DJ Honey Dijon, and a shout out to designer Telfar Clemons. Beyoncé’s live tribute could be no different.
Footage from Harlem’s ballroom scene appears on screen for Act 6. “The House of Renaissance Ball’ begins. A giant disco ball swings from above as Beyoncé sets the mood with slinky versions of ‘Plastic Off The Sofa’ and ‘Virgo’s Groove’ lounging in a glittering clamshell in golden rhinestone Loewe jumpsuit covered only black-gloved arms reaching around her body. Out of the shell, she spits ballroom linguistics at a thrilling pace while walking face (a category that is judged solely on the perfection of the contestant’s visage), then tearing into ‘Pure/Honey’ and ‘Mov’e before letting French contemporary hip-hop duo and longtime collaborators Les Twins perform a slick interlude before her phenomenally talented dancers bring the house down. From jaw-dropping death drops and poses to walking through the categories old way, vogue fem, and sex siren, this act has everyone reeling long after the finale. That’s not to say Bey doesn’t go out with a bang. With a final nod to Bianca Jagger and Studio 54, Beyoncé soars from the stage riding a mirror-balled horse in a silver feathered cape and bodysuit. Then flies solo until the end, thanking everyone for looking so beautiful, her dancers, singers, band, husband, daughter, and last of all, as the lights come up she makes one final thank you, with her most personal meaningful tribute of the entire evening, by projecting a photograph of her Uncle Johnny, a Black, queer man, who not only influenced her sense of style and uniqueness (he also made many of Beyoncé’s costumes and prom dress which she namechecks on ‘Heated’) but who embodies the importance behind Summer Renaissance – a reference best summed up by a letter Beyoncé wrote to fans saying “A big thank you to my Uncle Johnny. He was my godmother and the first person to expose me to a lot of the music and culture that serve as inspiration for this album. Thank you to all of the pioneers who originate culture, to all of the fallen angels whose contributions have gone unrecognised for far too long. This is a celebration for you.”