Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Beywitched: For 40,000 Beyoncé fans, the hype finally became her live presence at Raymond James Stadium


At 9:01 p.m. Friday, Beyoncé entered the third dimension.

She was no longer a specter, an abstraction, a flawless face and voice preaching gospel through the world's earbuds. The BeyHive's Queen B, the evasive figure that launched a thousand thinkpieces on race and sex and feminism and fame, was at long last present in the flesh, statuesque in a Victorian lace bodysuit and funereal wide-brimmed hat, striking a pose of singular fierceness for more than 40,000 fans at Tampa's Raymond James Stadium.

"Welcome to the Formation Tour," she said by way of invocation. "How y'all feeling tonight? If you're ready to have a good time tonight, say, 'I slay!' If you slay every day, say 'I slay!' If you know who you are, say, 'I slay!' "

This was the second date of her much-anticipated Formation World Tour, launched in the still-rippling wake of her wildly acclaimed surprise album Lemonade. But even if it lacked the historic significance of Wednesday's tour opener in Miami, it will still go down as a landmark date.

The singer and her crew spent most of April rehearsing at RayJay, polishing and perfecting her most ambitious outing yet. While the tour may not have been born in Tampa, it did incubate here for a month, earning the city at least a footnote in what may go down as the pop music story of the year.

Fans who'd spent the past six days memorizing the lyrics to Lemonade started lining up as soon as the parking lots opened, styled in their BeyDay finest, from pricey workout gear from her Ivy Park line to homemade T-shirts referencing Beyoncé's songs (Slay, Flawless, I'm Not Becky), eager to experience this latest incarnation of their idol.

"I think people know her more personally now," said Tandra Faulkner, 28, of Tampa, wearing a custom-printed WAKE, PRAY, SLAY T-shirt. "We know her more as a person than just a celebrity. If you listen to the songs, it really tells a story about what she's been through."

Radio stations parked outside brought Beyoncé cutouts, lemon candy, even a fake lemonade stand. For the BeyHive, any glimpse of anything remotely tied to Beyoncé was cause for a celebratory selfie. At one point, there was a line more than 30 deep just to take a take a photo with the merch truck.

That's where Donna Henderson and Gerrell Taylor of Orlando were waiting when they spotted a pair of Beyoncé's backup dancers who'd popped out to grab some swag. The fans recognized them on sight, freaking out accordingly. One of the dancers Snapchatted an image of Henderson's right ring fingernail, bejeweled with a cobalt crown in tribute to Beyoncé's daughter Blue Ivy.

"This show means everything," said Taylor, 21, relishing his first Beyoncé concert. "She's more than just an entertainer. She's a healer. She's a friend. She's a confidante."

She's also an inspirational figure in the #BlackLivesMatter movement, said Linette Smith of Lakeland.

"The movement is what's most important," said Smith, 28. "For the longest time, she's been behind the scenes, her and Jay Z; they've been financing a lot of it. Now she's out in the open with it."

"And we're gonna get in formation with her," added friend Annette Hawkins, 25, of Lake Wales.

So could every other fan, in the form of an official $45 "BOYCOTT BEYONCE" tour T-shirt, a winking nod to the uproar over the rebellious imagery of her Super Bowl single and video Formation. (Before the show, Tampa police spokesman Stephen Hegarty said he wasn't aware of any problems or protests, although a plane did circle overhead tugging a banner reading #BlueLivesMatter — a reference to a Twitter movement of "proud Americans who support police.")

Unlike Taylor Swift's 1989 World Tour, which hit RayJay last fall, the Formation Tour does not, in the early going, appear to rely too much on special guests. Here, there was only one celebrity that mattered — two if you count her rapper husband.

The focal point of Beyoncé's stage was a gargantuan obelisk of a video screen that spun and flashed and projected building-sized images of the singer and her squad of 16 dancers to the cheap seats. For something a little more up-close-and-personal, she had an L-shaped catwalk that jutted nearly to midfield.

There she stood, so close, so real, that were it not for the barricade keeping her just out of arm's reach, you'd swear you could reach out and touch her.

Times staff writer Chelsea Tatham contributed to this report. Contact Jay Cridlin at or (727) 893-8336. Follow @JayCridlin.

How was

the show?

Jay Cridlin, Times pop music/culture critic, reviews the Formation World Tour at

Slaying with

their queen

Fans post their photos from their evening with Beyoncé at Raymond James Stadium.

Beywitched: For 40,000 Beyoncé fans, the hype finally became her live presence at Raymond James Stadium 04/29/16 [Last modified: Saturday, April 30, 2016 12:21pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Polk sheriff: Gibsonton man sent child porn to Bay News 9 anchor


    A 20-year-old Gibsonton man has been indicted on federal charges after authorities said he repeatedly sent child pornography to a news anchor for Bay News 9.

    Marchaun Browning, 20 of Gibsonton, was indicted on federal charges, accused of sending child pornography to a news anchor for Bay News 9 using Twitter. [Courtesy of Polk County Sheriff's Office]
  2. 5 things to do under $5: Type artists, shuffleboard, toy train show, Wildflower Walk


    1 Letterheads Typefest: The muralists who run Illsol Space, a gallery in Tampa Heights, said their respect for handmade fonts and sign painting techniques moved them to curate this exhibit featuring type-based muralists, hand-style lettering designers, sign painters, letterpress studios and type designers. …

    Colm O’Connor, a Dublin sign writer, is among the 22 artists featured in the Letterheads Typefest exhibit at the Illsol Space gallery.
  3. Foundation Partners buys Anderson-McQueen Funeral Home


    ST. PETERSBURG — Anderson-McQueen Funeral Home, the Tampa Bay area's largest family-owned funeral company, has been sold.

    Anderson-McQueen Funeral Home, the Tampa Bay area's largest family-owned funeral company, has been sold.
[CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  4. Apollo Beach woman dies while scalloping in Crystal River


    An Apollo Beach woman died on Monday while scalloping with her husband in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Crystal River, according to the Citrus County Sheriff's Office.

  5. Editorial: Trump's vague, shifting strategy for Afghanistan


    President Donald Trump's strategy on Afghanistan makes two things abundantly clear: He has no better idea than Barack Obama how to break a political stalemate between the Afghan government and the insurgents, and he intends to turn over the losing military campaign to the ex-generals who have chewed on this for years …

    President Trump failed to make a convincing case for deepening America’s involvement in Afghanistan.