All hail the queen

Be­y­oncé’s Coachella per­for­mance was a his­toric cul­tural mo­ment

Windsor Star - - YOU - ELAHE IZADI

“Thank you for al­low­ing me to be the first black woman to head­line Coachella.”

Those words from Be­y­oncé, ut­tered mid­way through her fes­ti­val-head­lin­ing per­for­mance Satur­day, were less a hum­ble show of grat­i­tude than a dec­la­ra­tion. She in­ter­spersed her his­tor­i­cally black col­lege-themed per­for­mance — com­plete with drum line, ma­jorettes and step­danc­ing — with a Destiny’s Child re­union and cameos by her sis­ter, Solange and hus­band, Jay-Z. Thanks to the Coachella livestream, which re­peated the per­for­mance Sun­day for those who may have missed the ini­tial con­cert, peo­ple around the world could watch along. It be­came a ma­jor cul­tural event, ri­valling her 2016 Su­per Bowl half­time per­for­mance.

While Be­y­oncé in­tended to en­ter­tain the live au­di­ence in Indio, Calif., the per­for­mance was clearly also meant to thrill an au­di­ence watch­ing from afar. Coachella has come to be known for an easy­go­ing, boho es­thetic, with the stereo­typ­i­cal Coachella at­tendee a drunk white hip­ster wear­ing an Indige­nous head­dress and loads of glit­ter.

On Fri­day, Vince Sta­ples re­ferred to the main stage as “the white peo­ple stage,” telling the crowd, “I know y’all don’t know who I am cause none of y’all look like me, but I don’t give a (ex­ple­tive).” By Satur­day, Be­y­oncé claimed that space as her own — a DJ an­nounced this was of­fi­cially “Bey­chella.”

For her Lemon­ade tour, Be­y­oncé had elab­o­rate set de­signs, fea­tur­ing pools of wa­ter and video screens that breathed out ac­tual fire. At Coachella, her back­ing of more than a hun­dred mu­si­cians and dancers in yel­low and black, many wear­ing berets and placed in a pyra­mid for­ma­tion on bleach­ers, was just as spec­tac­u­lar.

Be­y­oncé had ba­si­cally cre­ated her own HBCU: the Univer­sity of Be­y­oncé. The school colours: yel­low and black (the yel­low, a theme from her al­bum Lemon­ade, is also the colour of her Bey­hive horde of fans). The fra­ter­nity brothers’ clothes bore the same Greek let­ters as Be­y­oncé’s cropped sweat­shirt: BDK, or Beta Delta Kappa. The B and K likely stand for Be­y­oncé Knowles, while the Delta may be an al­lu­sion to her favoured num­ber, four.

She had reimag­ined some of her big­gest hits as march­ing band ren­di­tions that could up­stage any HBCU half­time show (the back­ing mu­si­cians in­cluded for­mer mem­bers of Florida A&M Univer­sity’s band, and the drum line was for­mally in­tro­duced as the only one pre­sented by “Queen Bey” and “guar­an­teed to show up and show out”). There was elab­o­rate step-danc­ing. There was even a mock pro­bate, a com­ing-out cer­e­mony for Greeks at HBCUs.

Be­y­oncé sang Lift Ev­ery Voice and Sing, com­monly known as the black na­tional an­them. She played snip­pets of a Mal­colm X speech (“The most dis­re­spected per­son in Amer­ica is the black woman,” the crowd at Coachella heard the slain leader say). She even man­aged to throw in lyri­cal dancers per­form­ing to Nina Si­mone’s Li­lac Wine.

Later in the show, Be­y­oncé tran­si­tioned to some of her more tra­di­tional per­for­mance at­tire (sparkly and form-fit­ting leo­tards, and knee-high boots). Destiny’s Child mem­bers Kelly Row­land and Michelle Williams joined Bey on stage and per­formed the trio’s Say My Name and Sol­dier.

Jay-Z showed up for Déjà Vu. Solange danced along­side her sis­ter to Get Me Bod­ied. Les Twins, a danc­ing duo, ap­peared through­out. For Drunk In Love, Be­y­oncé stood alone atop a cherry picker and ser­e­naded the au­di­ence.

While Be­y­oncé was the first black woman to head­line Coachella, other black per­form­ers have graced the main stage, in­clud­ing in 2010 when Bey made a cameo dur­ing Jay-Z’s head­lin­ing set. She had also been sched­uled to per­form at the mu­sic fes­ti­val in 2017.

On Satur­day night, she told the au­di­ence, “I am so happy to be here. I was sup­posed to per­form at Coachella be­fore, but I ended up get­ting preg­nant, thank God,” re­fer­ring to her preg­nancy with twins, Rumi and Sir Carter. “This is a very im­por­tant per­for­mance for me tonight. I’m happy to be back on stage.”


Be­y­oncé’s per­for­mance at Coachella proved gal­va­niz­ing not only to her de­voted fan base, but cap­tured the imag­i­na­tion of so­cial me­dia and in­ter­na­tional au­di­ences.

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