Renaissance, which kicked off in Stockholm in May, was Beyoncé’s first tour in nearly seven years, with 56 shows worldwide, tied to her 2022 album of the same name. In recent years, her musical projects have become more declarative of her personal values. “Homecoming” celebrated historically Black universities; “Lemonade” charted the arc of her husband’s infidelity into their redemption. (She is married to the rapper Shawn Carter, a.k.a. Jay-Z.) And now “Renaissance”: an ode to Black queer and trans history, told through a dreamscape of house music that could easily double as a soundtrack for a druggy Brooklyn sex party. Live, the production of “Renaissance” was maximalist, even operatic. Pyrotechnics punctuated beat drops, and there were at least six outfit changes per show (with new looks each show), nearly two dozen dancers, a full band, acrobatics and a finale in which Beyoncé rides a crystal horse, deity-like, through a blizzard of silver confetti.
Anything Beyoncé does becomes a cultural event, but the Renaissance World Tour has become a cultural movement. People are crossing the globe to see her, comparing set lists and fashion choices, attending multiple shows. Silver and rhinestones have become Renaissance signals, as recognizable as any brand logo. Products that she used on tour are selling out, and chrome is appearing in fall look books. Video and photos from the tour have blanketed social media for months, documenting the challenges she issues to the crowd — including one tied to her song “Energy,” during which, after she sings the line “look around everybody on mute,” she pauses, waiting to see if the crowd can calm down enough to follow suit. Fans are also charting the budding confidence of Blue Ivy Carter, Beyoncé’s eldest child, who made her stage debut this year. There are Reddit threads dedicated to post-show comedowns. And the tour has surpassed the previous record for highest-grossing by a solo female artist, which was previously held by Madonna in 2009. By its close, Beyoncé will have generated an estimated $4.5 billion for the American economy, about as much as the 2008 Olympics did for Beijing.
The path of totality has changed nearly everyone who stepped into it. Oprah shared a video of her reaction to Beyoncé’s performance on her Instagram. Standing in a nondescript room, hands crossed, she was uncharacteristically speechless. “I couldn’t scream,” she says, her voice hoarse with emotion. “I was in awe. … That is like the most extraordinary thing I’ve ever seen.” Oprah’s best friend, Gayle King, has made the pilgrimage too, of course. So have Lenny Kravitz, Pharrell Williams, Kelly Rowland, Jeff Bezos, Paul McCartney, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, LeBron James, Dua Lipa, Vice President Kamala Harris, Shakira, Madonna, Angela Bassett, Natalie Portman, Megan Thee Stallion, Zendaya and Tom Holland and many others.