Sunday, June 24, 2018
News Roundup

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

TAMPA

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 [email protected] or (727) 893-8336. Follow @JayCridlin.

     
           
Comments
Rays team up to beat Yankees again 4-0

Rays team up to beat Yankees again 4-0

ST. PETERSBURG — With all that's been said, tweeted, ranted and written on these pages and elsewhere about the Rays' odd, unorthodox, weird and some days downright wacky pitching plan, this might be the craziest thing yet:It's working.Like, rea...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Greg Auman answers your questions about NFL’s investigation into Jameis Winston

Greg Auman answers your questions about NFL’s investigation into Jameis Winston

There are many unanswered questions and discrepancies about the story of Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston and the March 2016 Uber ride in Arizona that has led to his upcoming three-game suspension for violating the NFL's conduct policy.The Bucs won't ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Will this be Jameis Winston’s last season in a Bucs uniform?

Will this be Jameis Winston’s last season in a Bucs uniform?

A t his introductory news conference after being drafted No. 1 overall by the Bucs in 2015, Jameis Winston said to judge him on his actions moving forward."Actions speak so much louder than words, or what they may have read or what they may have hear...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Rays Tales: Why ‘trades’ and ‘prospects’ are always in same conversation

Rays Tales: Why ‘trades’ and ‘prospects’ are always in same conversation

Besides the continual evolution of their intriguing pitching plan, the primary topics of conversation for the Rays over the next several weeks will be trades and prospects. And not mutually exclusively.Some sooner than others, the Rays are going to c...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Former Mitchell High player Nathan Smith taken in NHL draft by Jets

Former Mitchell High player Nathan Smith taken in NHL draft by Jets

It's rare to see an NHL draft pick with Tampa Bay ties, but the Jets used a third-round pick Saturday on center Nathan Smith, 19, who played for Mitchell High School in Trinity and most recently for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the USHL.Smith was ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Report: Lightning to talk to John Tavares during free-agent courting period

Report: Lightning to talk to John Tavares during free-agent courting period

Despite limited salary-cap room, the Lightning is among at least five teams expected to talk with Islanders All-Star center John Tavares, who can be a free agent July 1, when the courting period begins Sunday, ESPN reported.Tavares also is expected t...
Updated: 10 hours ago

Strangers are coming together to honor two killed in Bayshore crash

TAMPA — John Reisinger has seen miracles since his niece and 21-month-old grand-niece were killed while trying to cross Bayshore Boulevard 30 days ago. Some, he says, are too painful to talk about. Others he’s still trying to make sense of, such as h...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Rays journal: New confidence carries over for Willy Adames

Rays journal: New confidence carries over for Willy Adames

ST. PETERSBURG — The key to SS Willy Adames rapping two of the biggest hits in the Rays' 4-0 win Saturday actually took place the night before.An RBI single that snapped an 0-for-12 and a second hit two winnings later in Friday's game restored ...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Another small, quick forward headlines Lightning’s draft picks

Another small, quick forward headlines Lightning’s draft picks

Even without a first-round pick, the Lightning wrapped up its draft with seven picks Saturday, starting with Gabriel Fortier, an undersized 18-year-old forward from Quebec in the second round."They were guys that we really wanted," Lightning director...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Saturday’s Rays-Yankees game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Saturday’s Rays-Yankees game

INF Daniel Robertson has only played two games after a short DL stint, but it seems like he has already made a half dozen great plays. Willy Adames and Jake Bauers get the attention, but Robertson has the skills to steal the show any night.It is obvi...
Updated: 10 hours ago