Beyoncé brings Black joy, queer joy to Gillette Stadium
Renaissance Tour inspires fashion, community among fans
The evening of Aug. 1 was clear as the full moon hovered over the fashionable crowd at a packed Gillette Stadium. Fans screamed, vogued and sang along with Beyoncé as she performed hits from her 25-year career during the Massachusetts leg of her Renaissance World Tour. Her latest album, “Renaissance,” was released a year ago, to critical acclaim. The record is heavily influenced by disco and house, musical genres made popular by ballroom culture, an LGBTQ subculture of primarily African American and Latino members performing drag.
Beyoncé dedicated the album to “Uncle Jonny,” her mother’s openly gay nephew who helped make clothes for her performances with her mother, Tina Knowles-Lawson. During a 2019 GLAAD Media Awards acceptance speech, Beyoncé said Jonny helped raise her and her sister Solange and was “the most fabulous gay man I’ve ever known.” He died from complications with HIV but is immortalized in the song “Heated.”
Concertgoers at the Gillette show repeatedly spoke of the show’s importance as a place where they could be safe, dance, sing, embody joy, express themselves sartorially, and find community. Safe and joyous communal spaces are paramount for Black, LGBTQ and Latino people, especially considering recent events like last weekend’s racially motivated mass shooting in Jacksonville, Florida and the 2022 passage of Florida’s House Bill 1557, widely known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, a piece of legislation the ACLU and critics deem anti-LGBTQ.
For Tatiana DosSantos of Providence, Rhode Island, the Renaissance concert was the greatest night of her life. DosSantos is an avid concertgoer, having attended 58 concerts and three festivals over eight years. Still, it was this one that left her feeling euphoric. During a phone interview, DosSantos said, “As a fat Black woman who is queer, things have always been precarious for me.” Yet, at the Renaissance World Tour, she said, “I felt so free at her show. The freest I’ve ever been. It’s a euphoria I’ll never be able to describe.”
DosSantos’ friend since eighth grade, Christopher Faxas-Cruz from East Providence, Rhode Island, attended the show with her. He enjoyed his first Beyoncé concert and was taken by the sense of community in the stadium, especially with everyone dressing up and seemingly celebrating their own personal Renaissance. Faxas-Cruz, who describes himself as the “least—fashionably-inclined person,” had fun planning his concert outfit. He said once it sank in that he was attending the concert in the Club Renaissance VIP section (directly in front of the stage), he had to get his outfit together. Beyoncé would see him, after all.
Faxas-Cruz settled on a statement pearl top, saying it “stood out a little bit but was still on theme.” DosSantos made her outfit by hand and spent more than 60 hours gluing rhinestones to the bodysuit and skirt, she said. She had additional help from her neighbor’s mother, Ilda Costa, who helped sew her skirt. This attention to vestiary detail is reminiscent of how Uncle Jonny would create Beyonce’s outfits.
Gillette was filled with people wearing shimmery disco, pearl and honey-inspired outfits based on lyrics from the album. One attendee, Teddy Mathews, a musician from Wareham, was dressed in head-to-toe black and gold with honey- and bee-inspired details based on the song “Pure/Honey.”
“The concert was like being at the Met Gala, a family reunion and a ball,” Mathews said. He added that attending the show was an affirming, transcendental experience and that he’s in awe of how the singer “created a personal experience in a stadium.”
Corey Prince, from Troy, New York, has attended every Beyoncé concert except “Beychella” in 2018, which he regrets. “Once you see her perform live,” he said, “you understand the hype.”
DosSantos, Faxas-Cruz, Mathews and Prince were in the Club Renaissance VIP section of the concert, rubbing elbows with celebrities like Amy Schumer. They shared war stories of how they obtained their tickets — unfortunate souls dealt with Ticketmaster glitches and long queues, while the lucky ones knew a guy. Their tickets, with taxes and fees, cost around $850, and they all reported spending even more on clothing, travel, hotels, tour merchandise and food. Prince said he spent $4,000 to $5,000 on his concert experience. Despite the cost, they all agreed it was worth it and would happily spend it again.
“This tour is about freedom and joy, and she created that space,” said Prince. “Beyoncé needs no defense. There is no competition.”