Beyoncé in Barcelona
“Do you think they ever say ‘babes, that’s a bit extra’?” My sister and I were watching the giant LED screen where JAY-Z was swirling Beyoncé around in an (I assume custom built) cross-shaped aquamarine pool in a turquoise tropical lake, wearing her third wedding dress of the night.
We concluded it’s unlikely.
I first saw Beyoncé perform 19 years ago at Nottinghill Carnival with the original Destiny’s Child line up. If she has aged in the interim, it is only to become more beautiful, more talented, and infinitely more extra.
For some reason, we were discussing what to wear to the concert. She’s not going to see us, so why does it matter? Yet not dressing up seemed both disrespectful and a wasted opportunity, like wearing a tracksuit to your own wedding. Few people on earth make as much effort as Beyoncé with their appearance. The very least we could do was get the iron out.
The last customer in my sister's shop lingered, even though it was very obviously closed and fast becoming a hostile environment. When we mentioned the B-word she immediately purchased her item without trying it on and virtually ran out, to ensure we wouldn't miss such an important life event.
As thousands of us marched up Montjuïc in impossible outfits and impractical heels, the road so clogged with both On The Run II and Pearl Jam (yes, they're still touring apparently) traffic people were abandoning cars, I noted with admiration the permission Beyoncé gave us all to become our most fabulous, most flamboyant selves.
This is what it looks like to take up space, to expect the best of yourself and everyone around you.
By the time we arrived in the stadium we were strutting down the stairs as though Naomi Campbell was marking us out of 10 and Tyra was rooting for us. The screens started flashing moments after we found our seats, and a girl to our right began sobbing uncontrollably, which was an entirely appropriate reaction, frankly.
The arrangements, the vocals, the movement, the outfits, the staging, the choreography, the musicianship, the visuals, the pyrotechnics: I swear this woman even controlled the damn sunset for maximum impact.
There were fireworks, 3D flames, incredible dancers, a horn section dancing inside a grid revealed when the enormous LED screen split open. They made a breathtaking and not-very-short film just for the tour.
It dwarfed everything I’d ever seen before, even my beloved Janet Jackson’s heretofore untouchable Velvet Rope tour, and most certainly JAY-Z.
I’m a The Blueprint/ Black Album era JAY-Z fan, old enough to get mildly upset he’d leave Lucifer and Izzo out of a set in favour of Clique or Tom Ford. The truth was, it felt as though no one cared if he was there or not apart from us, the two strange brown girls from London with wildly gesticulating gun fingers, shouting along to Dirt Off Your Shoulder.
The crowd was restless if he was on stage alone for more than about 6 minutes, much like a warm-up rapper overstaying his welcome because he just wants to give y'all one more. Unfathomably, JAY-Z was a footnote: to many his solo presence just indicated another costume change from Beyoncé to look forward to.
I like to imagine there was also some lingering animosity. Beyoncé may have forgiven her husband's philandering, but we her fans certainly haven't. As she delivered the line "I know she was attractive, but I was here first" during Resentment with a pointed eyebrow raise, it became clear that his punishment wasn't over, and now it was our turn.
The new, more enlightened JAY-Z is... awkward. He fumbles sexist lines he clearly feels ashamed of in Big Pimpin', uses old call and response devices Beyoncé has no need of, and at his big age still seems to be working out what to do with his hands. These days, the "hottest chick in the game wearing his chain" just reminds us of how very forbearing, magnanimous and determined she must be.
Superhuman determination, evidenced by a two hour long set that could afford snippets and remixes of anthems as gargantuan as Drunk In Love, Diva, Sorry, Run The World, Formation, and Crazy In Love. Quite frankly, how dare she?
As the opening strains of each song wafted over the stadium we could barely believe this was happening to us and for us.
Even if for some sad reason you've decided not to be a part of the Beyhive, anyone who is this good at their job deserves your respect. Beyoncé has mastered, both technically and emotionally, the art of surpassing all expectations - even when what's expected is perfection. It must be exhausting.
There are whispers of the strain of carrying this enormous legacy at the corners of her eyes. Sacking her own father, miscarriages, her husbands infidelities; she has every right to a Kanye-sized meltdown but instead just channels it in to her art. There has never been a sub-par, less than spectacular Beyoncé phase. Unless you count the Eminem collaboration.
I don't have the words to do the show justice, none of us do. Apart from Kid Fury. Some things just have to be experienced, and that is exactly what this phenomenal woman is, an experience.