Beyonce tour hits Vancouver: Why local fans, artists all hail Queen B

Vancouver artists on the star power of superstar singer Beyoncé, who will perform at B.C. Place on Sept. 11.

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Beyoncé: The Renaissance World Tour

When: Sept. 11, 8 p.m.
Where: B.C. Place
Tickets and info: ticketmaster.ca

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The career of Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter is like an entire music industry in and of itself.

But right alongside spectacular commercial success is the boundless creativity that makes her massive global audience wait for each new project with bated breath. It’s rare for an artist so connected to the business side to be so in tune with her muse and delivering to fans, time and time again.

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The most-nominated woman artist in Grammy Award history has 32 wins to date and 200-million-plus in record sales.

After a dizzying series of projects ranging from 2018’s collaborative Everything is Love album and tour with husband Jay-Z, to 2019’s The Lion King and helming the musical film Black is King in 2020, the album Renaissance dropped in 2022.

Beyonce performs onstage at her Mrs. Carter Show World Tour 2013 on Nov. 30 at Rogers Arena in Vancouver. Photo by Nick Farrell /Vancouver Sun

The seventh solo studio album is her first since 2016’s feminist-themed Lemonade. Planned to be the first instalment in a trio of releases diving deep into the underground roots and progression of Black music over the past 60 years, Act 1: Renaissance is dedicated to her late gay uncle and godmother, Jonny. The record is a dive into the Black, Hispanic, LGBTQIA2S+ underground club scene that birthed house, techno and more.

Sequenced like a seamless DJ club mix, from the slamming Cuff It to the gospel-bounce of Church Girl and pop-funk raps of the closer Summer Renaissance, the 16-track album juggles numerous classic and contemporary dance music styles without a single ballad.

With co-writes from everyone from Grace Jones and Mike Dean to young up-and-comers Honey Dijon and Tems, the album is unlike anything she has released before.

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Vancouver-based singer Warren Dean Flandez, a multiple Juno-nominated soul/gospel artist and equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) educator, was surprised by the new musical direction, but appreciated its connection to a bigger picture.

“Everything she does now is approached by a bigger and bigger template of art and community,” he said. “She’s influencing social culture, social justice and breaking down borders and giving inspiration to everyone in her music, in performance and more. Each reinvention is successful and I can’t wait to see what she does next. I’d love to see her do an acoustic album, just piano, guitar and that big voice.”

With each release since 2003’s smash debut, Dangerously in Love, Beyoncé has managed to build a bigger and bigger entertainment empire combining profits with progressive values.

Beyonce performs at GM Place on March 31, 2009. Photo by Mark van Manen /Vancouver Sun

Examples range from her multi-year 2020 Peloton partnership being tied into free memberships for students at historically Black colleges and universities in the U.S., to charitable work throughout Africa targeting everything from legal fees for arrested protesters in Nigeria to the Zimbabwean Live Matter movement. It isn’t hard to imagine her entering politics someday as a candidate who could capture support from a huge base.

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One of the biggest voting blocks would certainly be the LGBTQIA2S+ community that has embraced Beyoncé’s larger-than-life presence with vigour.

Vancouver’s Tuck Entertainment specializes in drag performance events, including the popular For the Love of Drag: Legends show at the PNE, as well as the Stars of Drag event at the Summer Nights Concert series. One of their artists is Vancouver’s Kendall Gender, a biracial performer and Canada’s Drag Race top three finalist celebrated for her Beyoncé act.

Kendall Gender
Vancouver drag performer Kendall Gender is known for her Beyoncé act. Photo by Fernando Cysneiros /jpg

She explained the universal appeal of the pop star.

“The first drag number I ever did was to Beyoncé’s Ring the Alarm, so she has been ingrained in me since Day 1,” said Gender. “Besides being one of the best performers of all time, dating back to Destiny’s Child, she is also such a boss when it comes to work ethic. Also, I love the dichotomy of how she is so powerful and fierce, but also the connection to humanitarianism, equality and giving back in a humble way.”

In other words, it’s hard to find something to fault in this iconic star’s image and actions. Unlike so many other artists, Beyoncé seems both larger-than-life and down to earth. Gender says audience reactions to a Beyoncé act are immediate and always positive.

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“So many people relate to her music and identity that, when I come out to give my one per cent of what she gives, there is an instant response,” she said. “I know that only Beyoncé can be Beyoncé, but I want my homage to honour her. I have been following her since I bought an army print bandana, T-shirt and pants at Sears to wear to the Destiny’s Child show at Rogers where I felt so cool.”

Beyonce Destiny's Child
From left, Kelly Rowland, Beyonce Knowles and Michelle Williams make up Destiny’s Child as they perform at GM Place on Sept. 25, 2001. Photo by RIC ERNST /PROVINCE

Anyone whose history with the artist goes back as far as Destiny’s Child is well aware that the ‘It’ quality was always there. Surrounded by two very talented singers in Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams, Beyoncé managed to stand out onstage with them. The reason was that voice.

Heather Pawsey is a Canadian soprano and vocal instructor at Capilano University’s acclaimed music program who has listened to Beyoncé’s music and been impressed. As a specialist in classical vocal training and performance, she says the goal is to help students find their voices in the healthiest way possible.

“I’ve listened to Beyoncé for years and what impresses me most about her voice is that she uses an incredible range of techniques and styles that may fall outside of Western classical training, but which she dominates,” said Pawsey. “What that makes clear is rock solid training and technique that enables her to do those things without damaging her instrument. Obviously, she was born with a phenomenal talent but that has been reinforced from the start with the proper development which gives you longevity.”

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Both Flandez and Pawsey reference the singer’s early experience singing in church as foundational in both her delivery and in the way her compositions contain a kind of universality. It’s not for no reason that so many of the greatest pop vocalists started out in choirs. Choral training starts at a time when voices are too young to begin specific training, but provides fundamentals in ear training, in harmony, in rhythm, in dynamics, in learning to blend in with other voices and instruments that both singers say are invaluable.

“These are all musicianship skills that will hold you in good stead, no matter what your style,” said Pawsey. “But more importantly, it’s fun and it’s where you learn to love music and performance.

“Watching Beyoncé sing, you can see that it’s not performative — but really coming from a place of love and joy.”

Beyoncé kicked off her Renaissance World Tour in Stockholm on May 10. Photo by Bloomberg

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