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The Beyoncé-at-Coachella Exit Survey

Staffers react to the artist’s two-hour performance in the desert

Beyoncé performing at Coachella Getty Images/Ringer illustration

On Saturday at Coachella, Beyoncé gave a marathon performance that involved Jay-Z, Destiny’s Child, and a marching band. Enough said. Here are Ringer staffers’ reactions to the viral concert.


1. What is your tweet-length review of her performance?

Victor Luckerson: I’ve watched historically black colleges perform Beyoncé songs at halftime for 20 years. Alabama State is still rocking to “Lose My Breath.” Bey repaid the love and magnified their bombastic jubilance to the point of sensory overload. I was a kid again, grinning in the stands.

Alyssa Bereznak: Beyoncé is already the greatest performer of our time. That she somehow outdid herself Saturday is a tribute to her inimitable imagination, ambition, determination, and generosity as an artist. I feel lucky to exist on the same planet as her.

Micah Peters: Beyoncé is the greatest living performer, and I will be accepting no further submissions, thank you.

Matt James: Beyoncé’s set fired on all cylinders. Conceptually and technically, it was wildly impressive and deeply inspiring. A moment in American music, not just on Twitter. No wonder Eminem’s Sunday night headlining set wasn’t streamed. I can’t imagine a tougher act to follow.

Lindsay Zoladz: I FOUND GOD IN A HOPELESS PLACE (Coachella).

Rodger Sherman: I’ve watched a lot of YouTube videos of HBCU bands covering Beyoncé songs or doing Beyoncé-themed performances. This was like that, but featured every single Beyoncé song and Beyoncé was there.

2. Briefly describe how, when, and where you consumed the two hours of Beyoncé’s performance.

Luckerson: On my laptop Sunday afternoon, with the audio blasting from my floor-standing speakers. My immediate reactions were a mixture of shocked Wee-Bey, amazed Antonio Banderas, and of course, reverent Beyoncé.

Bereznak: I was on my way out of yoga and glanced at Twitter, which was understandably having a meltdown over this show. That led me to a link where Coachella was livestreaming a replay of the whole performance. I stood on the sidewalk outside of the studio for about 20 minutes staring down at my phone, fangirling.

Eventually I got really cold. But I didn’t want to miss anything on my four-minute walk home. So I wandered into a nearby nail salon, asked for a pedicure, and sat down to witness this historic moment uninterrupted. I didn’t even have headphones! I was *that annoying person* who blares loud music from their phone in a public place. (Of course, in my mind, I was doing everyone a favor.)

About 30 minutes later, I got a text alerting me that I’d burned through all my data for the month, and that I’d be charged an additional $15 for every additional gigabyte of data I used. I swiped it out of my view because it was in the way of Beyoncé performing “Mi Gente.” I must’ve hit the fan button at the nail-drying station six separate times just to keep watching. By the time it was done, my toe polish was rock hard and I, personally, felt changed for life.

Peters: I began watching Beyoncé’s set on Twitter on Saturday. Then, unable to parse the CAPS, keyboard smashes, and GIFs, deleted Twitter from my phone, so I could consume the performance as it was meant to be consumed: on my couch, without the intrusions of the outside world, via a shitty stream rip hosted on [redacted].

James: I watched it at home from my couch, even though I’ll be seeing it in person later this week at Weekend 2 of Coachella. As a regular Weekend 2 attendee, I normally don’t watch Weekend 1 streams of sets that I’m definitely going to be at, but it was one of the biggest artists in the world on the most iconic stage in modern American music. It was a cultural event that I needed to experience at the same time as everyone else.

Zoladz: On my home projector, as I realized that this was the reason I bought a home projector in the first place. I watched the first part Sunday afternoon, then went to see a movie with a friend, and then when she asked if I wanted to get a drink afterward, I said, “I would love to, except I have to go home and watch the rest of this Beyoncé performance.” So yes, I canceled plans for Beyoncé, and I doubt it will be the last time.

Sherman: I’m washed. I hadn’t stayed up till 4 a.m. in a while. But honestly the set was good enough that I wasn’t really tired; my main problem was that I really needed to pee starting like 45 minutes in, and the set went on for like an hour after that, and I was perpetually convinced she was almost done. (She wasn’t.)

3. What was your favorite moment?

Luckerson: All the southern rap homages: “Back That Azz Up” mixed with “Crazy in Love,” “Swag Surfin’” interpolated in “Drunk in Love.” Beyoncé is a master of mash-ups (remember the “Clique”/“Diva” remix from the On the Run tour?), and I appreciated that most of the homages in this show were to southern artists. While there’s some debate about whether Texas is part of the South, it’s clear where Bey stands.

Bereznak: That’s like asking what a person’s favorite brush stroke is on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel! This set was legendary because of its cumulative grandiosity. That being said, I teared up during “I Care” and cackled over the “suck on my balls” portion of the evening.

Peters: OBVIOUSLY THE STEP SEQUENCE TO THE “SUCK ON MY BALLS” CHANT. ARE THERE OTHER ACCEPTABLE ANSWERS? NO—NO THERE ARE NOT.

James: Judging by my involuntary physical reaction of jumping off the couch, I would say it was when Destiny’s Child launched into “Say My Name,” but the moment that will stick with me most was when she explicitly acknowledged being the first black woman to headline Coachella. I’m glad she called that out so that fact didn’t escape anyone. We had a hologram of a dead man in a headlining act before we had a black woman headline.

Zoladz: That’s like asking Beyoncé to pick her favorite twin! But some standouts were the “suck on my balls” interlude of “Sorry,” the very emotional (and very Prince-esque) performance of “I Care,” the dance with Solange, “Say My Name,” “Love on Top”—OK, I have to stop now because I could really go on all day.

Sherman: I really think the phrase “suck on my balls” hasn’t been given enough opportunity to shine as an insult available to all people, regardless of whether or not they have testicles. Beyoncé is finally shifting this paradigm.

4. Which song worked best with the marching band?

Luckerson: The three-minute run when she performs “Countdown” and “Check on It” while strutting above the crowd on a catwalk as her brass band trails her is pure joy.

Bereznak: Beyoncé frequently closes with “Love on Top” for good reason. It’s a feel-good classic that everyone can sing along to. Having a giant marching band as her backup made a song that already brims with joy all the more uplifting—especially since it bookended what can be described only as a historic human feat.

Peters: “Swag Surfin’” by a lot, which that Coachella audience—equal parts confused and “help”—did not deserve.

James: “Formation” was obviously well suited for the band, but I really loved the horns blasting through the chorus of “Crazy in Love.” A few songs into the performance I was worried that I might get a little fatigued on the limited sound of the band, but that never quite happened for me.

Zoladz: “Sorry” was the moment I started texting all my friends “HOLY SHIT.”

Sherman: Better than any individual reworking of Beyoncé’s songs were the snippets of other pieces of music that kept showing up in the middle of Beyoncé’s songs. I genuinely yelled at Beyoncé backing her ass up to a brass band booming “Back That Azz Up.”

5. Jay-Z’s time on stage: Not enough, or too much?

Luckerson:

Bereznak: Just enough. He wasn’t on her level. But the show was a tribute to her career, and Jay-Z is an indisputable part of that. It made sense to me that they chose an early young-in-love hit like “Deja Vu” as opposed to a Lemonade-era number. The night wasn’t meant to be about him.

Peters: I think the couple of minutes and the cheesy, loving “YESSSSSSSS IT’S SO CRAZY RIGHT NOW” was just enough for Jay to be a nice footnote, but not enough for him to overstay his welcome.

James: However many seconds Bey wanted Jay to be out there is the right number of seconds for him to be out there.

Zoladz: Juuuust enough to keep him in line and remind him who the true breadwinner of the Knowles-Carter family is these days. Also was it just me or did he seem winded, even though he was up there for only 1 percent of his wife’s incredibly athletic set?

Sherman: The perfect amount. If Jay doesn’t show up while all the other important people in Beyoncé’s life do, it’s a statement of some sort, and we have to talk about it. But did anybody actually want to hear Jay perform a whole song? Having Jay appear for 30 groan-worthy seconds sums up his relevance in 2018. It momentarily killed the vibe, but it was a necessary evil.

6. The Destiny’s Child reunion was ________.

Luckerson: Kelly Rowland’s reminder that she won “Soldier.”

Bereznak: Everything I could’ve asked for! Kelly and Michelle held their own and brought out a playful energy in Beyoncé that you see only when she’s sharing the stage with women she loves. (See Solange’s appearance.) Not to mention, “Lose My Breath” was designed to be performed with a live drumline.

Peters: An important reminder that Kelly Rowland is perfect; I’m thinking specifically of the moment where she swung the mic like a dick during that line on “Soldier,” when they’re talking about dicks.

James: There’s a clip on YouTube in which you can hear a grown man yelling “OhhHHH MY GODDDD” at the top of his lungs. That wasn’t me, but it also wasn’t not me.

I have to admit though, I was wincing pretty hard when it came time for them to walk off the stage.

Zoladz: A delight! If a glaring reminder that Michelle Williams is the Ringo Starr of Destiny’s Child. I thought their voices sounded great together, though, and did you see that smile on Bey’s face when they were doing “Say My Name”?! It seemed like a really special moment for her.

Sherman: Evidence that Destiny’s Child would be an elite pop act if still together. I guess it’s OK that Beyoncé went on to do other stuff, though.

7. What was Beyoncé’s most physically impressive feat during her performance?

Luckerson: Stepping aside to let that majorette hurl her batons a mile in the sky.

Bereznak: The sheer endurance of it all. Beyoncé has a PhD in being Beyoncé. She hit every hip sway and shoulder pop like it had been directly uploaded into her brain from her storied self-dedicated vault, all while bringing genuine skin-tingling emotion to every note of every song.

Peters: The fact that she was onstage for the duration of a blockbuster movie and never once sounded out of breath? Think about how winded you sound walking up a single flight of stairs while on the phone.

James: It’s got to be the endurance. Something you can always say about Beyoncé—she endures.

Zoladz: Much has, and should, be made of the pure athletic stamina, but to me the most impressive thing was her sheer presence as a performer—the way she telegraphed that for every second of that damn near two-hour set she was in control. You need a lot of energy to do that. But it’s there in the slow confidence with which she prowls the stage, the almost taunting quality of her gaze. It’s like she’s connecting with every single member of the audience, benevolently judging them for not living up to their full potential, and inspiring them to try harder, because to disappoint Beyoncé would be the most soul-crushing thing imaginable. Who needs therapy when you can just watch this performance every morning?

Sherman: Honestly, I wouldn’t have been able to remember the whole set list, let alone dance for two straight hours while remembering it. Also, I don’t think she sweats?