I listen to a radio station, C89.5, that plays electronic and dance music. Most other radio stations have hosts that sound interchangeable, with the same deep, smooth timbre of voice. But C89.5 is run by high schoolers. They read the advertisements and news in nasally voices and foreign accents, stutter and mispronounce words all the time, and I think it’s great! With student hosts, the station feels less commercial, more authentic.
On one drive home, the radio station said they were giving away Beyoncé tickets. I had never entered a radio station contest before, so I thought I may as well dial in. Well I ended up being the lucky caller, without even realizing it!
Radio host: How would you like to go to a Beyoncé concert?
Me: I’d like that.
Radio host: Well you just won two tickets!
Me: NO WAY!
A few minutes later, I heard that same exchange on the radio. If I had known that I had won, I would have sounded more enthused and said something way out there, just to entertain all the listeners.
Our fellow concert goers were scantily dressed like they were going clubbing, even though it was raining and the stadium’s ceiling did not cover most of the chairs. The concert was a big dance party.
The concert ticket said 6PM and the concert was supposed to start at 7:30PM, but Beyoncé did not start performing until 9:30PM. While we were waiting, whenever Beyoncé’s name was mentioned or one of her advertisements would play on the screen, the crowd went wild. We were truly a captive audience.
The opening act was DJ Khaled. He played some songs on the turntable. Like a child with ADD, he played each song for 15 seconds max. Whenever the audience started getting into a beat, he would switch songs. He kept telling the audience to put their hands in the air, and they would for a few seconds, then lose interest. Also, at least ten times, he said, “Make some noise if you want Beyoncé to come out,” and we would make noise but she never did come out. He must have sensed that the audience was not interested in him, and was solely intent on seeing Beyoncé. He left the stage, and we waited another hour.
When Beyoncé came on stage, the cheering reached a fever pitch. The audience was a sea of cellphone screens. The cellphones changed color with the stage that they were recording: red, white, black.
Beyoncé danced during her first few songs, so her voice was a higher pitch than usual and had less nuance, more yelling. When she stopped dancing and only sang, we could appreciate her incredible vocal talent.
The stage had a giant cube with screens on each side. The screens projected Beyoncé’s image so that everyone in the stadium could see her. Sometimes the cube would rotate or open up down the middle. There were acrobats, fireworks, pyrotechnics (whenever the flames would go off, I could feel the warmth though I was far from the stage). It was an amazing spectacle, but always, Beyoncé was at the center of it.
I left with my ears ringing. I don’t think I can handle concerts like that, it was too loud for me and I’d have to be in one of the first few rows near the artist to enjoy myself. Also, my neighbor was a round man with body odor and multiple piercings who would accidentally bump into me while dancing. He was all into Beyoncé’s message of loving yourself as you are.
All in all, it was an interesting experience. Beyoncé’s fans worship her like a god, and she acknowledges that she benefits from her fans’ fervor, but made small attempts to protest it. For example, between songs, she went on a spiel about how you’re never alone, because you have yourself. And then in passing, she said that even when you’re alone, you can listen to God. And in one song, the cube briefly said, “God is God. I am not.” So it was interesting, the way she would alternate between power and bravado, humility and vulnerability. She would sing about slaying it, then later, she would sing about redemption. I didn’t think it was hypocritical of her; life and identity is complex.
I took two pictures on my phone.