In the week since Beyoncé marched into Coachella as a drum majorette with a 100-member band, transformed the traditionally rock & roll festival into a homecoming celebration at an HBCU and added another crown – Queen of ‘Chella, natch—to her collection, her show has been lauded as historic, a game-changer, and launched her even further into that “greatest performers of all time” conversation.
But after a dancer mentioned that some surprises would be tucked into their second show this weekend (and Coachella announced it would not live stream the concerts like last weekend) curiosity over what Beyoncé and band had under their berets – and how they could possibly top their first weekend – meant an even larger-than-usual crowd surged toward the main stage before Bey’s scheduled 11:05 p.m. set time.
Turns out, the changes primarily were cosmetic, and with good reason. With a stage show as full-blown and intricate as this, which was six months in the making, there’s no such thing as tweaking a little something here or adding an extra bit of choreography there. Move the wrong piece, and the whole thing tumbles like Jenga.
Besides, the show is as immaculate as you heard. If you rolled your eyes at what seemed to be hyperbole, you weren’t alone – but from inception to execution, this might be the most inspired, singular, thoughtful and downright beast of a stage show we’ll ever see.
Prancing onstage, Queen Beyoncé looked every bit the royal in a silver-spangled Balmain bodysuit, cape and headdress that once again recalled Queen Nefertiti. The palette this weekend shifted not only from ebony and gold to silver, but also from bumblebee yellow to an eye-popping pink in the leotards, uniforms and college-casual sweatshirt Beyoncé wears in the first half of the show (The cutoffs and fringed, iridescent boots remain, as well they should.)
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It’s a sign of our ugly habit to always hope for a bigger, better or just plain different deal that the crowd began to thin only 45 minutes or so into Bey’s set, when it became clear the show was going to be much the same as we watched last week (a good argument for killing the live stream altogether, maybe?).
Too bad, because they missed the one surprise guest, J Balvin, who popped in for “Mi Gente.” Otherwise, the 27-song set list remained the same, as did the guest list. Beyoncé kept it mostly to friends and family again, bringing out an almost puppy-excited Jay-Z for “Déjà Vu” and Solange for “Get Me Bodied” and another adorable onstage dance party that makes you wish you were a Knowles sister. Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams emerged in silver-dusted white ensembles for Destiny’s Child reunion part two – though the girls did seem to have more fun this weekend than last, especially when Beyoncé made a slight misstep and giggled before sending them off with “Give it up for my best friends.”
In fact, the greatest change between the two shows seemed to be Beyoncé herself. Last week, a small but vocal contingent disparaged the show with the kind of complaint that seems harmless on the surface, but turns darker when cracked open: “The show is too perfect.” It’s an insult that would only be lobbed at a woman, and especially at Beyoncé’s headlining set – as a few writers noted in their pieces last week, she was “too perfect” because she had to be too perfect. Beyoncé’s performances have seemed staged down to the eye roll before, but last night, she seemed loose, a little giddy. Maybe it was knowing the first show had been received so well, or maybe she was just relieved to have such a high-pressure show off the docket. Whatever it was, she was more charming and off-the-cuff than I can ever remember seeing her.
Except for when she growled “Suck. On. My. Balls.” Everybody needs a little spice with their sugar.