Beyoncé Toronto concert review: Joy, healing, release


You saw us in the rainy streets and in Union Station, stuffing it to the brim in a sea of sparkle. You saw us on your social media feeds bedazzled to the gawds.

We are the BeyHive.

On Saturday, Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter — the most Grammy-awarded artist in history — began the North American leg of her Renaissance World Tour in Toronto, performing the first of two shows to a sold-out Rogers Centre.

I’ve attended several Beyoncé tours, including On the Run and Formation. Before each of her concerts, I always feel the same emotions: shock, then disbelief and, finally, a crashing wave of gratitude.

On Saturday, I was emotional from the time I woke up to the time I arrived at the venue. I cried on the GO Train; I cried at the Rabba; I cried by the entrance to Union Station, likely scaring any tourists eyeing me from the Fairmont hotel across the street.

You see, for me, and so many others, Beyoncé is more than an artist. She’s a source of joy and a catalyst for motivation and self-love.

When you have a presence like that, the vibe at your show is bound to be inviting.

“You ready to dance?” a fellow fan asked me as we waited for the show to begin.

“You already know!” I responded, and off we went, chatting about our favourite songs, our outfits, and if we thought Blue Ivy — Beyoncé’s oldest daughter — would perform alongside Bey that night. Our conversation attracted other people, and soon, we were a group of six exchanging social media handles and phone numbers. Some people worry about going to shows alone, but I love going to Beyoncé concerts by myself — I always leave with more additions to my community.

Then the lights went down, and the show began.

As Beyoncé opened with powerhouse ballad, “Dangerously In Love,” the crowd erupted. Couples filled the gaps between themselves; friends fell into each other’s arms.

Previous Beyoncé concerts have had stricter choreography and overall rigour, but the Renaissance tour is all about letting loose. It’s okay if you miss a moment on the stage because you’ll still feel it. That’s what happened to me. In the age of capturing everything, I only recorded about 2 per cent of the show. My phone stayed in my purse as my hips swayed and my voice skyrocketed through the roof (sorry to everyone around me). I was set free by Beyoncé, releasing “my wiggle” as she sings in “Break My Soul.”

Then came the healing.

Throughout the show were pockets that I believe Beyoncé crafted specifically for her Black fans, and especially for her Black LGBTQ+ fans (to whom the birth of EDM/dance music must be credited). Beyoncé uses her art to showcase our gifts both to the world and to ourselves. In her song, “Brown Skin Girl,” she encourages brown-skinned girls to cherish our unique beauty, and she always advocates for us despite the repercussions. When Amari Richardson, Bey’s dance co-captain, led the way in the “Black Parade” performance, I screamed the opening line, “I’m going back to the South… Where my roots ain’t watered down, growin’, growin’ like a Baobab tree.”

At the end of this section, Beyoncé and her team held their fists in the air and one by one around me, Black BeyHive fans did the same. In that moment of release, I wept.

Beyoncé’s show arrived when I most needed her, as the problems of the world and the daily microaggressions I face as a Black woman continue to wear me down. Last month, an anti-trans rally was held outside three Ottawa schools; a June report found “significant” bias of anti-Blackness within the York Regional Police. Homelessness remains a devastating problem nationwide, along with opioid-related deaths.

Sometimes, when the noise gets loud, we need a release. Beyoncé granted us that space.

I left my pain on the floor at the Renaissance World Tour. I sung every lyric and whipped my hair to every beat. I sweated through my glistening dress. If music is our universal language, may Beyoncé forever accompany the scribes etching our songs into history.


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