The moment Beyoncé fans have been impatiently waiting for finally arrived on Wednesday: The superstar kicked off her highly anticipated Renaissance World Tour in Sweden, filling up Stockholm’s 50,000-seat Friends Arena with excited spectators, many who had flown from all corners of the world to witness the surprises what Beyoncé had in store. Hundreds of thousands more people at home scrambled to find livestreams on TikTok and Instagram and watch the event for themselves.
And surprises there were. The pop icon dropped Renaissance last summer and then largely went dark, save for some Instagram posts, a Grammy appearance, and the tour announcement, which came in February. And though she’s known for her elaborate visuals — and visual albums — she hadn’t dropped any videos for Renaissance, which meant the audience that came to see her didn’t have their usual aesthetic guides for how to dance and dress at the shows. It was anyone’s guess how she would deliver her newest songs.
The show had a twist start: Instead of throwing a Studio 54-esque party right off the bat, Yoncé arrived on stage in a gold suit with her band, a giant, heavenly cloud scene on the stage-wide screen behind her. She sang “Dangerously in Love,” a song she hasn’t performed live since 2009, and a ballad. It was like she was her own opening act (there were no other opening acts, for the record), showing off her vocals effortlessly through a handful of songs she doesn’t sing often: “Flaws and All,” “1+1” and “I Care.” She even tossed in a cover of Mary J. Blige’s “I’m Goin’ Down,” to boot. She was chatty and joyful the whole time, shedding the type of icy diva-stare she owns during most shows.
The Renaissance portion started with the energetic flourishes many were expecting. The framing of the rest of the concert was largely futuristic, full of robots and space-imagery fused with Beyonce’s past. She herself became a robot, both on screen and on stage. Joined by a large collection of dancers (and a pair of groovy robot arms as well), she powered through the first three songs from the album before blending them into the rest of her discography, like the way she sang part of “Alien Superstar” over “Sweet Dreams.”
In between stage settings, fans got to see some long-awaited visuals, which included mix of new material and old footage from her past videos, often as megamixes of her songs played over them. She perfectly broke up Renaissance — and played the album in full, as many had hoped — creating mini-worlds around them. During the Opulence portion, she performed atop a mechanical structure that seemed to take the place of a bull or horse for her verse from Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage Remix.” The structure then carried Bey through a pair of robot legs as she prepared for the next section. Later, she performed “Plastic Off the Sofa” from a giant shell and wore a bee costume while delivering the news on KNTY TV.
As expected, Beyoncé continued to show gratitude to the LGBTQ community that inspired her latest album, specifically the ballroom scene. She has added a crew of current stars in the scene, like Honey Balenciaga and Carlos Basquiat. Towards the end of the show, during an extended portion of “Pure/Honey,” a vogue battle even ensued.
Beyoncé’ has always included artfully done covers of other people’s songs in her sets but this time she did so as mash-ups and interludes: Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright,” Britney Spears’ “Toxic,” “Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back,” and Nina Sky’s “Move Ya Body” could be heard, among them. Her back-up singers even did a fantastic take on Diana Ross’ “Love Hangover” during one of the transitions between acts.
The finale was a showstopper. She flew from the stage atop the disco horse seen on the album cover for “Summer Renaissance” and gave thanks to the audience, dancers and band from a harness that carried her off the horse. It was a mystical end to a once-in-a-lifetime show from one of pop’s greatest live performers.