For Beyoncé’s Minnesota fans, the biggest question going into Monday’s long-awaited concert at TCF Bank Stadium wasn’t the truth behind her intensely analyzed new album. Instead, it was: heels or rain boots?
“I compromised and went with sandals,” said Lauren Jensen, of Austin, Minn., celebrating her 22nd birthday at what she called the concert of a lifetime. “I don’t mind if my feet get wet. Especially not for Queen Bey.”
Aside from a few sprinkles the storm held off until well after forecasts suggested it would arrive. At 8:15 p.m., however — just 15 minutes before Beyoncé’s scheduled start time — an announcement came over the stadium’s speakers calling for fans to evacuate. Lightning reportedly had been spotted 6 miles away.
By then nearly all of the 35,000 or so spectators were in their seats. They were directed to the nearby Williams, Ridder and Mariucci indoor arenas to wait out lightning threats. An “all clear” signal was given at 9 p.m., and the stadium quickly filled again.
Bey finally touched down on stage just after 9:30. The light smattering of rain had ended in time for the outpouring from fans to begin.
“I came to slay!” the singer yelled during the opening strains of her song “Formation,” as she and her small army of dancers danced out in matching black leather outfits. Good thing for their sake it wasn’t raining.
“Thank you for riding the storm out with me,” she said as “Formation” led into another highlight from her new “Lemonade” album, “Sorry.”
It was a hard break for the many fans giddy with excitement, and especially the ones dressed to the nines.
Unlike the more brawny and beer-y crowds typical at stadium gigs — such as last year’s Bank shows by the Rolling Stones and Luke Bryan — the audience at the Gopher football palace on Monday was more stylishly dressed. And way more feminine.
The audience was about 80 percent female, a lot of them women around Beyoncé’s age (34), having a girls’ night out, along with many teen and preteen girls with their moms, out late on a school night.
With a strong feminist tone and just an insanely enjoyable quality to her new record, Beyoncé’s audience wasn’t going to let a little rain ruin the royal affair. The pre-show discussions were just as gloomy as the weather forecast, focusing on the purported infidelity of the Queen Bey’s husband, rapper Jay Z, that is one of the themes of “Lemonade.”
“After this album, we will all stand in solidarity with her, even in a tornado,” said Felicia Walker, hanging out before the concert at Stub & Herb’s with four girlfriends, all University of Minnesota grad students.
“She opened up on this record in ways that set such a strong example for women,” added her friend Tia Fuhr. “This is more than just a concert.”
In another example of Bey’s power shining through the rain, Lauren Wiley’s parents and siblings from south Minneapolis attended Monday’s concert as a memorial of sorts. Lauren was the biggest Beyoncé fan of the bunch but died of an aneurysm on New Year’s Day at age 26.
“We would go to [Beyoncé] dance parties and have Bey brunches with friends, and she was always the one who organized it,” said her younger sister, Bridgett. Their dad, Mike Wiley, joked (with a hair of truth) of being “one of the only old guys here.”
“I’m not necessarily a big fan myself,” Mike said, “but I am tonight.”
In his opening set, DJ Drama paid tribute to another of the singer’s recently deceased fans. “If it rains tonight, that just means Prince is looking down upon us,” he told the crowd, which cheered loudly.
Erin Simle and Alex Steinman took a break from raising toddlers to raise the roof with their heroine. They both wore T-shirts with different Bey-related empowerment messages on them. Steinman’s read, “Beyoncé wasn’t built in a day.”
“I’ve been on the verge of tears for weeks about this show,” said Steinman, who also brought a rain jacket but shrugged off concerns about the weather. “This is like church for me, so the rain will be the baptism.”
Of course, there was a deluge of T-shirts and all kinds of other wearable goods available for sale at the concert. No surprise, Bey had some of the largest and most elaborate merch booths ever seen at a concert. Items ranged from a sleek $150 satin bomber jacket to a plethora of $45 T-shirts. One of the T-shirts coyly read, “Boycott Beyoncé.”
After her video for “Formation” portrayed excessive police force and her Super Bowl performance appeared to channel the Black Panthers and Black Lives Matter, police unions in Miami and Pittsburgh called for boycotts of Beyoncé’s concerts.
There was no public discussion of a boycott in Minneapolis, however. Instead, police politely helped fans funnel into the stadium. One officer even helped a high-heeled concert attendee cross the light-rail tracks.