I Saw Beyonce At Tidal X: 1020 & Now Live In A World Where I'm Forced To Associate Beyonce With Disappointment
On Monday night, I saw Beyoncé in person for the first time. I say "for the first time," not only because of how momentous this occasion was, but because after seeing Beyoncé perform at Tidal X: 1020, I definitely need to see her again for two main reasons: One, I feel like I only "saw" her in that the sight of her technically crossed through my eyes and into my brain; and two, what I did see was not nearly enough. I feel like I lost my Seeing Beyoncé Virginity on a one night stand that I barely remember, and now I want to see her up close in a full-length concert that I will truly understand and cherish.
What began as a half-baked metaphor in my mind to convey how heavy seeing Beyoncé live weighed on me has a much clearer connection now that the words are typed out. I never planned on, ahem, doing the deed with someone with whom I wasn't in love, but also didn't have any strict rules on when or how this would happen. This lead me to the aforementioned one night stand situation, which I can now conveniently relate to seeing Beyoncé for the first time. I knew the dude through a friend, didn't regret it; got the tickets through my job, didn't regret it.
But just because you don't regret something, it doesn't mean that it's the optimal experience. To shimmy my way out of the sex talk now because we don't need to go there with the details, I'm glad I went to Tidal X: 1020. It made for a fun night, I got to hear from some new artists I'd never heard of, and I got to listen to a bunch of music I like live. But, would I have felt the same way if I hadn't been there as media and had paid face value for my ticket? I'm not so sure. While the concert was for charity (proceeds went to the New World Foundation), its website didn't hint at the "telethon" (as the New York Times calls it) vibe that was to come. Having certain artists listed as though they're headliners, including Beyoncé, Jay Z, and Usher, implied to me that these musicians would be playing longer sets. Instead, everyone involved, from "Tidal Rising Artists" to Ms. Knowles-Carter herself, played only one or two songs.
To get back to Bey — because this is about Bey, not a sexy tale of drunken virginity losing nor a drawn-out complaint about the proper way a charity concert should be billed — seeing her brought some complex feelings out of me. After Nicki performed "Moment 4 Life" and jumped into "Feeling Myself," I knew Beyoncé was coming. The entire crowd knew Beyoncé was coming. We were promised Beyoncé and the moment was finally upon us. Nicki had been controlling the stage with her gang of backup dancers dressed in all black and suddenly a row of women all in pink appeared behind them. It was Beyoncé and her crew.
The 34-year-old started singing her "Feeling Myself" verse and the audience went wild. I tried to take pictures and they came out like this:
Still, I took, like, two more pictures on my crappy ass camera because it was Beyoncé and I was seeing her!!! Technically. I mean, she was really small, y'all. I could barely even tell it was her, which meant I had to depend on the giant screen that showed a giant Beyoncé with a giant hot pink leotard and a giant flawless high ponytail. I tried to force myself to watch Tiny Beyoncé on the stage, because if I watched Giant Beyoncé, then I'd feel like I'd always have to qualify my words when I told someone I saw her live. "Yeah, I saw Beyoncé once, but I really just watched her on a screen, so I might as well have stayed home watching her on YouTube."
After finishing up "Feeling Myself" with Nicki, Beyoncé left the stage. She emerged moments later still in the pink leotard that was much more vibrant on the giant screen, but also with a long fur shawl wrapped around her. She introduced the next song as "my favorite song to sing with my husband" — the crowd went wild knowing a Bey and Jay moment was coming — and started singing Justin Timberlake's part from "Holy Grail." Jay joined her and they put on an amazing performance of the song, complete with Beyoncé dropping to the ground and whipping her ponytail around like she was possessed (by Sasha Fierce, I assume) and a kiss between the couple at the end.
Then they left.
Jay came back out, performed "Empire State of Mind" without Alicia Keys, and the show was over.
Unsurprisingly, Beyoncé was awesome. She's the best at what she does. The voice that comes out of her does so with zero straining regardless of how high she hits or how low she goes. It pours out of her and the feeling is visceral. The way she said "husband" in her smooth southern accent continues to haunt me in the most comforting way. But it was not enough. In a literal sense, it was not enough, because two songs neither of which were solos? Come on. But it was also not enough in that after you see and hear this woman perform for years, starting when you're nine years old and she makes you want to be part of a girl group, you feel like you need some more Beyoncé — not for your money, but because there she is in person at last.
To be clear, I'm not at all complaining about the location of my seat, which I was somehow lucky enough to be given for free, nor am I complaining about the Tidal event itself (except that, you know, maybe make it clearer that everyone's set is going to be really short). I just want to see more Beyoncé. I want to be fully immersed. I want the crazy theatrics, and the costume changes, and the hour-and-a-half long performance. (For the love of god, please don't try to relate this part back to the sex thing too literally. I said we were done with that.)
I know that because of my own inner voice yelling at me, I'm going to feel like I have to add an addendum every time I mention that I saw Beyoncé live ("I saw her, but only for, like, two halves of songs and I was really far away..."), but that I also won't be able to not mention seeing her live because it's Beyoncé, I kind of have to. I just know now that there needs to be real Beyoncé concert in my future where I won't have to do that. Where I can feel like I saw it all.
Image: Lia Beck