Welcome to the Renaissance – Beyoncé can do whatever she wants at London’s Tottenham Hotspur stadium

Instead of a celebration of her own career, tonight’s show pays tribute to what’s come before but knows it has to work to continue pushing things forward.
Photo credit: Andrew White

We’ve all agreed that Beyoncé can do whatever she wants by now, right? Over the course of a flawless 30-year career, she’s been a member of one of the most influential pop groups of all time before releasing a run of boundary-pushing solo albums alongside game-changing live performances. She’s more than earnt the right for complete creative freedom and she repeatedly does things her own way tonight at the first of five sold-out stadium shows at London’s Tottenham Hotspur stadium.

The big, expected stadium staples like ‘Single Ladies’, Halo’ and ‘Drunk In Love’ are left out of the 33-song set, which also sees Beyoncé play new album ‘Renaissance’ in full. Instead of the regular party-starting opener of ‘Crazy In Love’, Beyoncé begins the show with soaring ballad ‘Love Me Dangerously’ and the emotional ‘Flaws And All’. Leaning into the calm, Bey takes time to acknowledge a fan’s birthday and point out Beyhive regulars. “I can’t believe this is my job,” she says, sitting atop a silver piano for ‘1+1’, providing another moment of epic beauty. “I’m so grateful. You’re the reason I’m living my dream”. It’s as subdued a start as possible when you’ve got 60,000 screaming back every word. 

Photo credit: Mason Poole

That heartfelt, intimate first portion of the night ends with a roaring tribute to Tina Turner before the first of five costume changes. A video then introduces the stadium to “The Renaissance” as an image of Beyoncé is turned from flesh to a silver statue while a spoken word message talks about Renaissance being a place of rebirth. Beyoncé then appears from between a pair of giant robot legs to really drive home the metaphor. From here on out, it’s a stadium pop show that only knows maximalism.

Released last year, ‘Renaissance’ pulls heavy influence from the history of Black and queer culture but reworks that legacy to build futuristic pop that continues conversations about personal freedoms, identity and self-expression. There’s a similar sense of forward-facing liberation tonight, with the stadium turned into a massive club soundtracked by the snarling ‘Cozy’ and ‘Cuff It’’s unrelenting groove. The hammering ‘Energy’ leads into a defiant, celebratory remix of ‘Break My Soul’ that pulls from Madonna’s ‘Vogue’. As dancers flood the various runways, a giant metallic disco horse appears onstage and Beyoncé shouts out the likes of Solange Knowles, Kelly Rowland, Lizzo, Lauryn Hill, Grace Jones and Aretha Franklin.

That energy leads into the empowering ‘Opulence’ section of the show, featuring the glorious ‘Formation’ and the carnival stomp of ‘Run The World’. Her daughter Blue Ivy appears onstage to lead a dance breakdown at the start of ‘My Power’ before marching down the central runway, as Beyoncé follows on top a silver space-buggy for ‘Black Parade’.

Things get more extravagant from here, with a mammoth disco ball appearing during ‘Crazy In Love’ while ‘Love On Top’ ends with an acapella singalong that could have gone on all night. Beyoncé appears in a huge shell to sing ‘Plastic Off The Sofa’ before it’s transferred into a prison of microphones for the relentless ‘Heated’ while the closing ‘Summer Renaissance’ sees her ride faithful disco horse Reneigh across the stadium. 

As polished and pristine as this stadium spectacle is, there’s a deliberate throughline of being a work in progress. The show starts with videos of cranes pulling up the visuals and throughout the night, camera crew and stagehands are deliberately on show as they work in matching boilersuits. At various points, robotic arms from a factory get involved in dance routines and there’s a sci-fi industrial tinge to everything. 

Photo credit: Andrew White

Since the tour started earlier this month, there have been countless conversations about a looming retirement and a change in dancing style due to a rumoured leg injury. Yes, tonight’s show does pull away from what we’ve come to expect from Beyoncé, but there’s a sense of freedom to the entire show rather than an impending sense of finality. 

There’s a whole lot of joy, from Queen Bey’s bee-inspired outfit to the snarky clap back at fans demanding music videos for ‘Renaissance’ (“You asked for the visuals, but a Queen moves at her own pace”), but there’s also an important political edge to the show. “Whoever controls the media controls the mind”, reads an onscreen message before the straight-shooting ‘America Has A Problem’. 

Instead of a celebration of her own career, tonight’s show pays tribute to what’s come before but knows it has to work to continue pushing things forward. Retire? This show feels like the start of a bold, brave new chapter for Beyoncé. Welcome to the Renaissance.