Beyoncé headlines one of the largest concerts in the history of Louisville
This week, the city of Louisville experienced a Renaissance.
After a two hour delay, the most Grammy Award-winning artist of all time took the stage at L&N Federal Credit Union Stadium with three simple words for her fans — “I love you” — and began what may have been the largest headlining concert in the history of Louisville.
Throughout the 2.5 hour performance, Beyoncé looked and sounded immaculate. First emerging from beneath the stage in a design by Dsquared2 styled by British Vogue fashion director Julia Sarr-Jamois, the queen was a vision. With hair and makeup by world-class stylists Neil Farinah and Rokael Lizama, Beyoncé rotated through several looks throughout the show, including two new outfits that made their debut.
The set itself is divided into six acts, each one separated by a video interlude played across a giant video wall stretching the width of the stadium. While the bass-heavy later acts were said to have been heard as far away as the Highlands, the introductory act was a surprisingly soft way to start the evening. Beginning with “Dangerously in Love'' from Destiny Child’s 2001 album Survivor, the queen launched into a series of ballads that placed her astounding vocal abilities front and center. Her unmistakable vocal runs electrified the crowd through her performance of “Flaws and All,” a deep cut found only on the Deluxe Edition of 2006’s B’Day album, as well as “1+1” and “I Care” from the 2011 album 4. Beyoncé then took a seat atop a piano played by Emily Bear for a cover of “I’m Going Down” off the soundtrack to the 1976 film Car Wash, which became a hit for Mary J. Blige in 1995. The first act ended with a cover of Ike and Tina Turner’s “River Deep – Mountain High,” which the queen dedicated to the late icon.
The second act, “Renaissance,” began with a Metropolis-inspired interlude from which Beyoncé emerged in a custom Mugler designed by Casey Cadwallader. The robotic look was heightened by chrome armor that removed itself so that the queen could join 10 of her dancers for our first taste of dancing. “I’m That Girl” led into “Cozy,” which featured simple yet dangerous choreography with two robotic arms and climaxed with a vertical bed (worn on the back of a dancer) being placed behind the queen, who feigned sleeping to great applause while being wrapped in a blanket. Following a green-tinted performance of “Alien Superstar,” the queen performed the chorus to “Lift Off” from her husband Jay-Z’s 2011 collaborative album with Kanye West, Watch the Throne, before descending once more beneath the stage. It should be no surprise to the Beyhive that French dance duo Les Twins are once again featured on this tour, but many in the stadium were surprised when they suddenly launched themselves from beneath the stage to perform choreography to “7/11” off of Beyoncé’s 2014 self-titled album.
One video interlude later, Beyoncé reemerges wearing a minidress plated in gold squares with thigh high boots to match. As she sang and danced her way through three of the biggest songs from the Renaissance album — “Cuff It,” “Energy” and “Break My Soul” — the queen made her first trip to the center of the stadium, where her stage extended into a circular walkway enclosing the area for Club Renaissance ticket holders. Beyoncé led her dancers around the circle, stopping to perform for each side of the stadium as strategically placed fans blew her hair wildly into the air. The opportunity to see Queen Bey up close was so exciting that it was easy for fans to miss the giant horse being pulled onto stage (which, although I’m no expert,, I can confidently say was at least 5 or 6 Beyoncés tall).
Beyoncé then kicked off the “Opulence” act in a silver boater hat from Ruslan Baginskiy and a denim-printed custom Diesel bodysuit, flanked by a dozen dancers in matching outfits. She performed “Formation” with updated choreography from what was seen during her infamous 2016 Super Bowl Halftime Show appearance, and then made another trip to the center of the stadium for “Diva” and “Run the World (Girls).” Although some of her biggest albums only had one song featured on the setlist, 2019’s The Lion King: The Gift soundtrack had two songs make the cut. Beyoncé performed “My Power” and “Black Parade,” the latter of which she sang on top of a sparks-shooting tank reminiscent of a Tesla Cybertruck as it drove across the stage to the center of the stadium. She performed “Savage Remix,” a collaboration with Megan Thee Stallion, and “Partition” on top of the vehicle before it drove back through the arch cutout in the middle of the stage to make way for the “Anointed” act of the show.
Emerging next in a crystal-embroidered outfit from Alexander McQueen, the queen commanded her dancers through “Church Girl,” “Get Me Bodied” and Maze’s “Before I Let Go” before approaching what for many will be the most memorable moment of the night. Beginning with “Rather Die Young” from her 2011 album 4, Beyoncé then led the audience into the album opener “Love on Top” which featured some of the most impressive vocal runs of the evening from both Beyoncé and the crowd in Louisville. For over a minute the queen stood still and the band stayed silent to listen to the stadium of fans belt out the chorus to “Love on Top”— once, twice, three times, raising the key appropriately with each refrain. As the crowd launched into its fourth refrain, Beyoncé interrupted to give Louisville its roses.
“Okay now, y’all just beat everybody,” she announced to thunderous applause. “Did y’all practice that together? Y’all sound so good!”
And before anyone could process the moment, the iconic horn intro to “Crazy In Love” kicked in and Beyoncé began strutting to the beat towards the center of the stadium to perform a song so scorchingly catchy that it somehow transcends an era it also defines. Beyoncé then offers the spotlight to her band for a musical jam that teases “Green Light,” “Freedom” and “Work It Out,” her oft forgotten debut single as a solo artist from the Austin Powers in Goldmember soundtrack. Beyoncé’s backup singers, referred to as PURE/HONEY, take the spotlight next for an impressive rendition of “Love Hangover” by Diana Ross, where they don long white gloves and silver reflective gowns reminiscent of the Supremes (or their fictional counterparts led by Beyoncé in 2006’s Dreamgirls).
Queen Bey returns to the stage in almost comically opulent fashion as a sparkling clamshell opens to reveal the queen in a gold Loewe catsuit custom designed by Jonathan Anderson, featuring trompe l’oeil arms placed suggestively across her body. She performs “Plastic Off the Sofa” while reclining on her side, stage fans blowing her hair upwards as always. The clam rises for “Virgo’s Groove” and so does Beyoncé, performing now on her knees while her dancers perform beneath. Finally the clam descends to the stage and the queen rises to her feet again for “Naughty Girl” and “Move,” performing the latter again from the middle of the stadium. The next song raises the opulence even further as Beyoncé is backed not by her usual dancers but by four robotic arms with folding fans attached. Estimated to cost $100,000 each, the arms perform fan choreography around the queen as she sings “Heated.” I can think of no greater display of opulence than standing on a giant clamshell clad in diamonds while $400,000 worth of state-of-the-art robots wave fans at you. It’s an incredible sight and intentionally or not an epic flex, but the irony that this closes out the “Anointed” act instead of the much more appropriately named “Opulence” act is a bit baffling.
For the final act, “Mind Control,” the stage is transformed into a busy layout of news screens, stock tickers and flashing "ON AIR" signs as Beyoncé rises from beneath the stage behind a KNTY News desk in one of her most memorable outfits of the tour. Referred to as her “Queen Bee” outfit for it’s obvious inspiration, the custom Mugler costume designed by Casey Cadwallader is as evocative of haute couture as it is a Power Rangers villain, and looks just as at place in a superhero movie as it does a runway. The queen performed “America Has a Problem” while a giant still image of her on the rear of the stage has its mouth choppily animate between open and closed in sync with her singing, suggesting some sort of message about the media’s ability to control and manipulate the truth. Les Twins climb atop sway poles that swing over the crowd as Beyoncé leads her dancers into “Pure/Honey,” while a crewperson with a fisheye phone camera follows her around projecting the image onto the video wall. This act concludes with a ballroom segment where five of Beyoncé’s featured dancers — Carlos Irizarry, Aahkilah Cornelius, Darius Hickman, Amari Marshall and Honey Balenciaga — take turns voguing in different styles.
For the final song of the evening, Beyoncé appears atop the diamond-studded horse from the cover of Renaissance. The horse is flown through the air with the queen singing “Summer Renaissance” atop, dressed in a flowing custom Valentino outfit. The horse lands in the center of the stage and Beyoncé herself ascends into the sky, flying over the audience one last time as confetti blasts through the stadium.
It takes an artist as beloved as Beyoncé to exclude titanic hits like “Halo” and “Single Ladies” from her setlist and still satisfy her fanbase, but after just under three hours of dancing the audience was beyond grateful for what the queen had offered them. The show was a triumph from one of the most acclaimed performers in all of music, full of high fashion, bold choices and powerhouse vocals. And on top of everything, it stands a very strong chance of being the most attended headlining concert in the history of the citylle.