Even though she has been in the limelight for nearly 20 years, we hardly knew Beyoncé — until this year.
Her public life, videos and performances had been manicured and airbrushed to immaculate, golden-hair perfection. Then last month, Queen Bey, 34, dropped “Lemonade” — a powerfully raw hourlong movie and the album of the same name, her most personal, vulnerable and revealing statement. As she rhapsodized about infidelity, anger, forgiveness and black womanhood, we finally got to know the real Beyoncé.
Now she has transformed “Lemonade” to the concert stage, and, on Monday night at TCF Bank Stadium, she delivered her fiercest, most personal and most satisfying Twin Cities performance yet.
Not only is Bey the first woman to headline a Twin Cities stadium concert — Madonna tried in 1987 but ticket sales dictated that the show be moved to an arena — but she did it with aplomb, pizazz and an unrelenting attitude.
On previous tours she seemed to be trying to recreate the vibe of her forever-captivating videos. But on her current Formation World Tour, she is more concerned with revealing her personality — and all of the emotions in her complicated life — than with bedazzling her audience with mere spectacle.
To be sure, the staging was magnificent — from a seven-story-high, revolving video cube that resembled a monolith, to the precision choreography with 20 dancers on an L-shaped runway. But from the moment Beyoncé hit the stage, it was clear that she came to discuss her bittersweet life as detailed in “Lemonade."
Queen Bey announced her arrival with “Formation,” the song she introduced at the Super Bowl in February. But this time the costumes and vibe this time were more bolero than Black Panther.
“If you know who you are and where you came from, say ‘I slay,’ ” she implored after the opening number.
There was a snarl on her face, an attitude in her voice and an overwhelming fierceness that filled the horseshoe-shaped football stadium.
A sample of Brenda Lee’s 1960 pop hit “I’m Sorry” preceded Beyoncé’s own “Sorry,” the “Lemonade” anthem whose key line is “middle fingers up.” There was an unerasable don’t-mess-with-me look in her eyes. “Better call Becky with the good hair,” she spewed, suggesting that her man was cheating on her with Ms. Good Hair.
The two-hour concert played out in five acts, with some overlong interludes (filled with footage from the “Lemonade” movie while Queen Bey changed outfits). After the cheating sequence, Beyoncé dealt with anger, survival and eventually forgiveness.
Over the course of the drama, in 30-some songs, she eschewed some of her biggest pop-flavored hits, including “Single Ladies” and “Irreplaceable,” in favor of the more hip-hop and rhythmic music of recent albums.
She threw in some obscure numbers including “Runnin,’ ” her 2015 single with British producer Naughty Boy that showed off the prettiness and power of her voice. When the fans sang along on “Love on Top,” she cut loose with a megawatt smile that was rarely seen in her previous Twin Cities concert appearances.
And when she purred “Prince, we love you” and eased into his “Purple Rain” song “The Beautiful Ones,” she made it a gorgeous is-it-her-or-is-it-me ballad, rendered with tear-filled eyes and a heartfelt voice. Although it was planned as a tribute to the late Prince, the song fit beautifully into the theme of her repertoire.
Afterward, she left the stage while a recording of Prince’s “Purple Rain” played and the giant monolith was lit purple. Was this a necessary gesture or just filler for another costume change?
There was another nod to Prince as Beyoncé pasted on Vanity 6’s “Nasty Girl” on the end of her own tune “Blow.” And then it was time for home movies and making up.
Her man, Jay Z, and their daughter, Blue Ivy, filled the video screens. So did clips of Beyoncé as a young girl and an awkward teen. It was her life in vivid detail.
Then she took it home with the civil rights-inspired “Freedom” from “Lemonade,” Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor” and her own hit “Halo."
As fireworks exploded overhead, she danced in a pool of ankle-deep water, a baptism of sorts, introducing 35,000 BeyHive believers to the reborn Beyoncé.