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Beyoncé delivers unforgettable HBCU-inspired, big band-backed headlining performance at Coachella

Danielle Cheesman

 // Apr 15, 2018

Beyonce // Instagram

After cancelling her much-anticipated performance last year due to her pregnancy with twins Rumi and Sir, Beyoncé made history tonight as the first black woman to headline Coachella. She teased her 11:05 p.m. set prior to taking the stage to ensure all eyes would be on her, telling fans via Facebook: "We have been working hard and have a special show planned for you so please be safe and stay hydrated. We need your energy!....So mark your spot, charge your phones, grab your drinks." Naturally, rumors began to surface that a Destiny's Child reunion was in the works, as well as a possible appearance from JAY-Z considering the husband and wife duo are prepping their OTR II tour. Here's what went down and how Twitter reacted.

Coachella 2018 LIVE Channel 1
Coachella

Taking to the stage in custom fits created by Balmain's Olivier Rousteing—that he described to VOGUE as "military style...Mad Max [and] futuristic"—Bey opened her show strutting the perimeter of her stage to the marching band sounds of big drums and bigger horns. Backed by her hundred reported dancers, she rose from the stage in a cropped sweatshirt, denim short-shorts and fringed boots.

"Coachella, ya'll ready?," she asked before descending the stairs to "Crazy in Love" that featured an extended intro, slowed tempo, and incorporated "Back that Azz Up" and "I'm a Hustla" mash-ups. An urgent "Freedom" followed, and then a pitch-perfect "Lift Every Voice" punctuated by bursts of fire, stomps, and shouts in unison. She rewound and restarted "Formation," throwing her fist up towards its closing.

"Sorry" was given new life when delivered in the style of a Greek step show, with Queen Bey lining up a queue of men to follow her every order ("You: make me laugh!") before giving encouragement to her female fans ("Ladies, are we smart? Are we strong? Have we had enough?") and repeatedly reworking her "Suck on my balls!" phrase for a breakdown. Tacked on to its end was a more rhythmic and less balladeering version of "Me, Myself and I." She rapped a verse from "Kitty Kat" and employed shirtless, and nearly boneless, flexible dancers for "Bow Down" during which she asked, "Do we have any queens in the house tonight?"

Les Twins distracted the audience long enough for Bey to ascend a crane in secrecy to ultimately perform "Drunk in Love" while gliding high above the crowd. Two spot-lit dancers kept the audience's attention for a brief playing of Nina Simone's "Lilac Wine." Step choreography segued into a mash-up of "Irreplaceable" and "Diva," and O.T. Genasis' "Everybody Mad" was showed love with neon green lasers.

The stadium seating on stage nearly cleared for the remix of "Flawless" where Bey was joined by more crunkers, pop-and-lockers, dislocating dancers, and Les Twins. (It's possible she debuted the first seated Milly Rock ever.) DJ Khaled's voice then emanated from unseen speakers to demand that the annual music festival be renamed #BeyChella before she spit her verse from their "Top Off" collaboration. Backed by needless Auto-Tune, "7/11" followed.

Her queue of men returned for a step show interlude, sillily singing portions of her tracks "If I Were a Boy," "Work It Out" and more, and a twirler emerged for a choral rendition of "Party." Momentarily setting horns aside, violins and electric guitars took center stage to take a newly outfitted Bey and "Don't Hurt Yourself" to new heights with portions of Malcolm X's "Who Taught You to Hate Yourself?" speech playing as it neared its end.

The Queen removed her earpiece to secure her operatic and angelic vocalizing during a more propulsive version of "I Care." Echoes of her moans opened "Partition," but a double-time beat closed it out. She dropped down and got her eagle on for "Yonce," and Bobby Shmurda'd during her verse of "Mi Gente." Recordings of Drake's "Mine" vocals segued into Sean Paul's from "Baby Boy," during which Bey sang a slowed version of Dawn Penn's classic "You Don't Love Me (No, No, No)." (There was no more perfect transition for "Hold Up.") She called for crowd participation on "Countdown" and twerked before the first verse of "Check On It" even began.

A countdown sounded for the band, led by a bass guitar, to come in one-by-one to build the beat of "Deja Vu" where, much to viewers' excitement, JAY-Z took the stage to join his wife. No surprise to anyone watching, their joyful chemistry was palpable and contagious. (A snippet of "Green Light" closed their collab.) After a voice announced "We got snares, cymbals, quads, and bass," a band line entered to take reigns of an instrumental "Ego."

From shadows, Bey rose again with gratitude, saying, "Thank you for allowing me to be the first black woman to headline Coachella....Ain't that 'bout a bitch?" As a thank you to the women "who opened up the doors" for the star, Bey descended the stairs once again, this time for the (not so) closer "Who Run the World (Girls)," complete with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's speech in advocacy of feminism.

In perfect step (and as suspected), Kelly and Michelle rose from below the stage to stomp to "Lose My Breath." The trio showcased new melodies for "Say My Name," and kept in sync for a version of "Soldier" that made use of JAY-Z's "U Don't Know" and 2pac's "California Love." Bey's self-described "sisters" exited the stage to make room for her sibling by blood: to cheers, and urged on by her entire back-up crew, Solange skipped out to playfully demonstrate the instructional dance sequence of "Get Me Bodied." (Beyonce carried the rest of the tune but seemed mildly concerned with avoiding a wardrobe malfunction.)

A sip of water and pat of a towel later, Beyonce whole-heartedly spoke to the audience:

"I was supposed to perform at Coachella before but I ended up getting pregnant before—thank God. So I had time to dream with two beautiful souls in my belly and this is everything and more that I dreamt of it being, so thank you guys for sharing it with me...I wanna sing this last song to all my incredible beautiful fans, loyal fans, ride-or-dies. I love y'all."

First a cappella, and then with every continous key change perfectly in tact, the Queen closed with "Love on Top."


See Twitter reactions below.

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