On the Beat

Beyoncé cannot be stopped – not even by Mother Nature

Beyonce performs during the Formation World Tour at Carter Finley Stadium on Tuesday, May 3, 2016, in Raleigh.
Beyonce performs during the Formation World Tour at Carter Finley Stadium on Tuesday, May 3, 2016, in Raleigh. Parkwood Entertainment

There are some events for which the word “concert” seems inadequate. Beyoncé’s Formation Tour, for example, which played a nearly sold-out Carter-Finley Stadium on Tuesday night in highly dramatic circumstances.

The intrigue actually began weeks before showtime, with rampant speculation about whether or not Beyoncé would follow Bruce Springsteen’s lead and cancel over North Carolina’s controversial House Bill 2 law. Despite intermittent rumors (and a puzzling postponement of her scheduled Nashville date), the show went on.

Then off, thanks to the weather.

Then back on – and I missed the ending. But we’ll get to that.

Rain fell throughout the afternoon Tuesday, culminating in a drenching downpour just as the parking lots were opening and turning them into rivers of mud. But a rainbow appeared over the stadium as concert-goers lined up to enter, which seemed like a good omen. The weather was fine for DJ Khaled’s opening set, and the first hour or so of Beyoncé’s performance.

It’s tempting to call Beyoncé a force of nature – and the video heralding her appearance played like a creation myth depicting her as an alien and all-powerful goddess. Really, though, labeling Beyoncé as such shortchanges her considerable Svengali skills.

For the most part, the players in her band were invisible save for a few brief cameos. Instead, the virtuosity on display was more in the area of multimedia conceptualization, cult of personality and most of all charisma. Lots and lots of charisma.

The Formation Tour was an incredible extravaganza with building-sized screens, smoke, fog, fireworks, flashpots, explosions, sparklers, high-wire performers, costume changes, elaborate choreography, Pilates and, of course, killer beats. But the best special effect of all was Beyoncé’s own megawatt smile. She would occasionally break character mid-song to flash it for the briefest instant, and it pretty much lit the place up every time.

Beyoncé’s new video album “Lemonade” is the focus of this tour, and it’s a massively ambitious work that deals with issues of infidelity, personal identity, self-worth, beauty and lots more, set to those aforementioned killer beats. The crowd played its Greek-chorus role, too, responding to the infamous “Becky with the good hair” line in “Sorry” with a huge roar.

More than one “Lemonade” song has Beyoncé playing the wronged woman, leading to widespread speculation about things at home with her husband Jay-Z. On Tuesday night, this hit a crescendo with “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” on which Beyoncé bellowed, “Who the (expletive) do you think I is?” with terrifying intensity. She sang the following “Ring the Alarm” from a throne, in a woman-on-the-verge-of-a-nervous-breakdown jabber.

Mostly, though, Beyoncé was cool and composed, even as the rain began to fall again. A bit more than an hour into her show, that became an issue.

Shortly after 10 p.m., the rain really picked up and lightning began to flash. Then came the dreaded announcement that the show had been “suspended” – not canceled, but the crowd was ordered to leave the stadium and take shelter.

That led to a very chaotic and confusing 20 minutes or so, as the field and stands emptied. Masses of people huddled under the grandstands to escape the rain, wondering what to do. A lot of them left.

I was soaked, chilled to the bone and wondering if I should do that, too. That was when a security guard declared, “It’s canceled! Everybody needs to leave!”

“It is?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said, pretty emphatically. I looked over at another nearby guard, and he nodded, too.

Hoping to beat the crowd, I headed on out to the parking lot and joined the scrum of exiting traffic. And I had just left the stadium grounds when word came that no, the show was not canceled after all. But at that point, turning around and going back was not an option.

Representatives for show promoter Live Nation could not be reached for comment about the mixed messages. But sure enough, after the lightning relented, Beyoncé came back out to perform for those who stuck it out, ending around midnight.

Neither rain nor snow nor lightning shall stay this super-diva from her appointed rounds.

David Menconi: 919-829-4759, @NCDavidMenconi

That miserable traffic

Take a weekday afternoon rush hour, add torrential rains and toss with thousands of Beyoncé fans. What you get is a long, slow drive to Carter-Finley Stadium. Some folks complained later that they spent hours on Interstate 40 and missed nearly all of the performance.

Was it worse than the epic traffic jams in recent years for U2? For the Rolling Stones? State Department of Transportation statistics through 7:30 p.m. Tuesday show that average trips on eastbound I-40 in western Wake County took 20 to 25 minutes longer than usual. Last July, when the Stones played Carter-Finley, the I-40 backups ran as high as two hours.

From Staff Reports

  Comments