Review: Beyonce falls well short of delivering a masterpiece at Levi’s Stadium

Review: Beyonce falls well short of delivering a masterpiece at Levi’s Stadium

“Today is special,” Beyonce said to the nearly 50,000 fans who stood before her. “Because today I am the mayor.”

It may indeed have been a special day for the multiplatinum-selling pop star — who had been made honorary mayor of the city of Santa Clara — but the night turned out to be a completely different story, as Beyonce muddled through a concert that was far more mixed bag than masterpiece on Wednesday at Levi’s Stadium.

Maybe it’s indeed been a different story in other cities, given that Beyonce’s Renaissance World Tour has received pretty much rave reviews in all previous stops. But it’s hard to see how given the many flaws in the production, which bombards viewers with everything short of the kitchen sink but still fails to really connect with fans.

The result could be seen in the lackluster response from the audience, which exhibited far less energy and enthusiasm than what you’re use to seeing at big stadium shows.

It wasn’t that way at the start, however, as Beyonce opened her 2 1/2-hour curfew-busting show — which was supposed to start at 8 p.m. — nearly an hour late and drew a rapt response from the crowd simply by slowly uttering five words: “Bay Area, I love you.”

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From there — in what was the first of seven acts — Beyonce crept right into what has been dubbed the “Opening Act” segment and performed the Destiny’s Child favorite “Dangerously in Love.” The two highlights of that act were both covers, with Beyonce first doing justice to the Rose Royce favorite “I’m Going Down” (which many know primarily from Mary J. Blige’s fantastic version) before making a heartfelt introduction to the Ike & Tina Turner classic “River Deep – Mountain High.”

“This next song is dedicated to one of my my queens,” Beyonce said. “My biggest inspiration — Tina Turner.”

Yet, whatever momentum that the star had built with that nice opening segment quickly slipped away as she took the first of six mini-breaks — as a video played and she got ready for the next act — and then returned with the “Anointed” segment to play three consecutive new songs that hardly seemed to please the crowd.

The energy in the audience just felt like it dropped right off a cliff, and it was a rarity to see anyone singing along with the lyrics, as Beyonce moved through “Cuff It” and other songs off last year’s “Renaissance.”

Indeed, Beyonce is pushing “Renaissance” hard on this trek — the star’s first solo road show since since The Formation World Tour in 2016 — offering up more than a dozen tracks from what is her seventh studio album.

The problem was — at least in Santa Clara — people didn’t seem all that familiar with, or interested in, the new material. There was a lot of standing around during these songs — rather than dancing — which was especially problematic for a batch of songs that were inspired by dance music cultures.

“Renaissance” is, of course, an excellent record — and it was actually this critic’s pick for the top album of the year in 2022. Yet, without exception, the songs didn’t stand up in the live arena nearly as well as they do on the album.

It didn’t help matters that the sound mix was incredibly rough on this night, distorting the music and emphasizing the bass to uncomfortable levels (even when wearing earplugs).

There were, however, a number of really nice moments in the show. Topping the list was the chance to see Beyonce share the stage with her daughter Blue Ivy, who appeared during the “Opulence” segment of the show.

The show actually seemed to turn the corner, with an incredible crowd sing-along of “Love on Top” followed by the always fun “Crazy in Love,” but then — you guessed it — it was time for another mini-set break that let the momentum just slip right out of building.

The visuals were over the top from start to finish, with dance routines, special effects, a live band, a huge video screen and so much more fighting for our attention. Yet, it felt like Beyonce was just throwing stuff out there to see if would stick. And so little of it did on this night.

Beyonce is, without a doubt, one of the greatest pop stars of all time. But this show is far from her finest effort.

The show ended right around 11:30 p.m., roughly a half hour past the 11 p.m. curfew (which had already been pushed back from the normal 10 p.m. weekday curfew), making Beyonce a three-time curfew violator at Levi’s. She also broke the curfew with husband Jay-Z on their On the Run II Tour stop in 2018 and went late with her solo Formation Tour at Levi’s in 2016.