TAMPA — Beyoncé’s naked body lay across a massive video screen, slowly covered in a sheen of liquid silver. Her voiceover laid out the thesis for the Renaissance World Tour.
“I close my eyes and travel through realms of space and time. Reality holds no power or control of my state of mind,” she recited off camera. “On my voyage to find a source to charge my inner being ... I find the Mecca: Chicago, ATL, and NYC. Motor City opulence. House, these gritty bеats.”
On Wednesday night, Beyoncé took fans on a rhinestone-crusted journey of escapism. She sang, rapped, twerked and vogued through past and present hits. And along the way, she laid out some house music history.
Like the 2022 album “Renaissance,” this tour is a tribute to Bey’s late Uncle Johnny and other angels of the Black queer community — especially those in the ballroom scene. Her love letter to them was soundtracked by sultry remixes that danced between disco, electronic music, funk and R&B. The packed crowd at Raymond James Stadium loved it.
Despite arriving straight off a three-night stint in Atlanta, Beyoncé came to slay during her 2½-hour concert. That includes the opening set, which was performed by Beyoncé herself. As one fan in the parking lot put it: “Who else would do it? I wouldn’t want to open for her.”
For that heavenly first act, Beyoncé emerged onstage in a celestial floor-length gown. Then there was that soulful voice, rich and lovely and never off-pitch.
The dancing and flashing lights and fireworks would come later. During this kickoff, it was all about Beyoncé taking her time with some throwback R&B ballads (”Dangerously in Love,” ”1+1″ and “Flaws and All.”) Even with tens of thousands present, it felt intimate as she chatted to her fans in between songs.
“Baby’s on board — congratulations to you!” Beyoncé said, reading some of the many homemade signs in the crowd. “We got Tasha in the house. We got a Skyler in the house. Anyone celebrating a birthday tonight? Happy birthday to you!”
As the night unfolded, the next five acts were introduced with lengthy videos. Each showcased a different side of Beyoncé.
The science fiction-inspired “Renaissance” intro featured a metallic cityscape, robotic limbs and Beyoncé covered in metal plates. By “Motherboard,” the video showed Bey transforming into the computer herself, a time-traveling goddess with one foot in the future and another in the beats of the past.
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Onstage during the “Opulence” act, a camouflage-covered Beyoncé straddled a pole on top of a tank, leading an army of dancers into battle. Blue Ivy Carter, 11, rose from under the stage to dance and earned some of the loudest screams of the night. Who runs the world? Blue.
Later during the “Mind Control” chapter, Beyoncé flitted around in the world’s sexiest bumblebee costume, anchoring a news broadcast. Her fictional TV station had a name too cheeky to print in a family-friendly newspaper.
Despite the metallic armor that she wore at one point, evoking the vibe of the “Single Ladies” music video, Bey didn’t touch that song. The 30-plus tunes she chose were largely from the new record and 2011′s album “4.”
Like any good DJ set, songs blended together and morphed into booty-shaking mashups. There was a sprinkle of “Blow” during “Pure/Honey,” a tease to “Countdown” and “End of Time” during “Energy.”
The set included many nods to Black icons past and present: Diana Ross and Tina Turner, Grace Jones, Kendrick Lamar and Big Freedia. It was impossible to miss the pre-recorded purrs and chants of famed ballroom commentator Kevin JZ Prodigy (you’d recognize the fast-spitting narration from the “Renaissance” album.)
The evening was a clear celebration of queer joy. It started with TV bars, bearing the colors of the Progress Pride flag, that lit up the stage before Beyoncé came on. Bey did not directly acknowledge Florida’s polarizing politics. Instead, she told fans that she hoped that they felt safe and happy. Later in the show, she passed the runway to a team of vogueing dancers. They took turns showing off catwalks and duckwalks, backflips and head spins.
Beyoncé boasted over a half-dozen costume changes, including a very cool white robe that changed to color with a swipe of a UV light. During “Church Girl,” she rocked a metallic church crown while urging the audience to “drop it like a thottie.”
Not to be outdone, the Beyhive swarmed in full force with their own futuristic looks. The most popular items: fringed cowboy hats and foldable fans.
The crowd clacked their fans on the beat during “Heated.” They stayed silent (for the most part) after the line in “Energy” where Bey demanded, “Look around, everybody on mute.”
Beyoncé gave back the love.
“This is the hottest show I think I’ve done,” she said while straddling a giant chrome horse that fans have dubbed Reneigh. “And y’all still gave us so much energy. I want to say thank you.”
She sang “Summer Renaissance” while floating over the crowd, at first on horseback and then soaring solo. As she disappeared, the last image onstage was a photo of her Uncle Johnny — the inspiration for this big, joyful trip to the club.
There’s no doubt this concert would have made him proud.
Beyoncé’s Tampa setlist
1. Dangerously in Love
2. Flaws and All
4. I’m Going Down (cover)
5. I Care
6. River Deep, Mountain High (Tina Turner tribute)
7. I’m That Girl
9. Alien Superstar
10. Lift Off (Originally by Jay Z, Kanye West and Beyoncé)
12. Cuff It
14. Break My Soul
17. Run the World (Girls) - featuring Blue Ivy Carter
18. My Power - featuring Blue Ivy Carter
19. Black Parade - featuring Blue Ivy Carter
20. Savage (Remix)
22. Church Girl
23. Get Me Bodied
24. Before I Let Go (Maze Featuring Frankie Beverly Cover)
25. Rather Die Young
26. Love on Top
27. Crazy in Love
Anointed - Pt. 2
28. Plastic Off The Sofa
29. Virgo’s Groove
30. Naughty Girl
33. America Has A Problem
35. Summer Renaissance