Making eye contact with Beyoncé

Beyoncé and Jay Z left audience members hoarse and hyped in “On The Run II”. At approximately 10 p.m. on Oct. 4, the duo exploded onto the stage at Century Link Field in Seattle.


Philip Runia

Beyoncé Knowles Carter struts along the catwalk at Century Link Field in Seattle on Oct. 4, 2018.

Philip Runia, Arts Reporter

When I told my friend that I had bought VIP tickets to see Beyoncé, she just shook her head. After I noted that the concert was in Seattle, the silence that followed was deafening. It broke with her laughter and, of course, about a million questions in concerned motherly fashion.

This was my first time traveling alone, yes, but I had everything planned out. No, I didn’t have a hotel, that was too expensive. Yes, I asked the friend of a friend in Seattle about which neighborhood was safe-ish and nearest to fun and relevant areas. No, I don’t know when my flight will land. Yes, I have money saved for food. No, I will not get Taken. No, I couldn’t have just gone to a show in Chicago or Minneapolis. Yes, I know it is on a school night. The Airbnb was booked, the tickets were confirmed, and my bags were packed. Oct. 3 was a buffer day, Oct. 4 was the experience, Oct. 5 was goodbye, and I was back in time for cake at my mother’s 65th birthday on Oct. 6.

I was aware of the ridiculousness of the trip. I found that everyone I encountered in Seattle would be astounded to find that I was from Iowa and had come not for business or vacation but for a night of Beyoncé. It was the last show, and I was damn sure going to be there. Turbulence, anxiety, and a few class absences were nothing compared to what I would miss out on if I did not attend the performance.

Two years ago, I witnessed Beyoncé’s phenomenal talent in Minneapolis for the Formation World Tour. She’s one of those artists who, if you haven’t seen them at least once in your life, I’m not sure what you’re doing. I understand musical preferences but come on. You wouldn’t skip watching the Moon landing because you liked Mars better. Witnessing the Queen’s descent to the stage is well worth the cost of attendance. After more than 20 years in the game, Beyoncé is historic, dominating, and eternally fabulous.

The night of the concert, I took an Uber to the stadium, sparing my feet from what was inevitably going to be a long night of jumping, dancing, jostling, and trampling. I dressed in a combination of merch and iconography: yellowish tan plaid pants à la “Apesh*t”, and a Formation T-shirt with a black long sleeve underneath for warmth and practicality. I dressed down the shoes to Converse because who needs their kicks ruined in the wonderful chaos. After passing through security, I caved into buying merch that I did not need but absolutely coveted. The bag came in handy in saving my spot directly behind the rope in the front of the VIP area.

Going to a concert alone can be scary, but everyone in the Beyhive is like family. Everyone was taking others’ photos, singing, and making connections before the show. Most people were milling around getting drinks or using the restroom, but I had taken care of both before I arrived so that I could claim the best spot readily available. Snaking through people, I made my way to the front to make some friends.

On my left was Heidi. She’d been to two Beyoncé concerts before and got her tickets discounted to this one through her work at Century Link Field. VIP was the only way to do it, and she was happy to be “solo-dolo” with me. The 33-year-old paired off with me for the rest of the evening, helping me stay in the front once the show began and people became rowdier. She’s shorter than me, with brown, bouncy hair and a bright smile.

On my right was “Laurelle, like the makeup” and her boyfriend Jacob. They are both Beyoncé and Jay Z virgins. It was their first concert together, and Laurelle’s first concert, period. The black couple was excited to see the excellent upcoming display of blackness.

In front of me was Khairi, the recipient of a $100,000 scholarship, courtesy of the Carters. After the openers, twins Chloe and Halle, finished their performance, they presented Khairi with his scholarship. The high-school senior plans to study computer science and IT management at the University of Oregon. The 17-year-old is the last of the On the Run II scholars, which have been announced at 11 different locations of the tour.

After two hours of teaser songs and anticipation, the Jumbotron flashed with light and color, signaling the start of the show. “THIS IS REAL LIFE” shot across the screen, woven with images of the Carters’ life together. Blue Ivy, Rumi, and Sir were the focal point. Themes of the courting of Beyoncé, the development of the Carters’ marriage, their journey through betrayal and atonement were also present throughout the show. The story ended with their renewed love and happiness arriving with forgiveness and the birth of the twins. “THIS IS REAL LOVE” and “LOVE IS UNIVERSAL” held the center screen while live images of Beyoncé and Jay Z played on opposite sides of the loaded quote.

You wouldn’t skip watching the moon landing because you liked Mars better. Witnessing the Queen’s descent to the stage is well worth the cost of attendance. After over 20 years in the game, Beyoncé is historic, dominating, and eternally fabulous.

The Carters played nicely together on stage, clearly enjoying themselves. The power couple interacted with each other in a teasing, secretive manner, causing this viewer to feel like a voyeur. They were in their own world of knowing smiles, inside jokes, and stardom. In between their sets and costume changes, the crowd screamed for more. If you’ve never felt your uvula tremor at a concert, you’re not screaming loud enough. In friendly competition, the Carters encouraged the crowd to raise their voices in support of one or the other.

“I know my ladies run this mother,” said Beyoncé with encouraging gesticulations that elicited screams. “That’s what I thought.”

Witnessing the golden moment of clashing collaboration between Beyoncé and Jay Z was a spiritual experience. It was surreal, seeing them in person but being unsure if they were really there. Perhaps the most poignant part of the evening was when they joined together to sing “Forever Young.” It was wholesome and heavenly, the crowd members raised up their flashlights to sway to the sweet duet. Afterwards, Beyoncé skipped into her partner’s arms to give him a kiss. They are otherworldly, ethereal.

While I was there for Beyoncé, Jay Z definitely surprised me. The rapper hyped up the crowd intensely, raising everyone to new heights. “Haya” was the word of the night, meaning eternal life. The 48-year-old was most notably clad in a bejeweled jacket that had the design of a panther on the back. Fire danced in the sky as he vehemently spit his verses, and the crowd shouted right along, nearly feeling ablaze with the nearby heat. References to the Black Lives Matter movement were omnipresent throughout the show in costuming, phrasing, and projected images.

Ms. Carter’s power and ease of presence on stage was fascinating to watch. While watching the 37-year-old dance or listening to her fiercely angelic vocals, a surge of energy passed through me. Each glittering outfit change blew away the previous. The most extravagant was an enormous white and green ball gown that moved gracefully about her as she sang “Resentment.” When she finished, she ran backstage to a haunting choral interlude that embodied the lengthy train floating behind her.

At one point, I made eye contact with her as she passed overhead on her mobile stage. My eyes brightened, my heart stopped, and she smiled. It was fleeting; her attention was shifting everywhere during my favorite song, “Déjà Vu.” I found and find myself asking of Beyoncé, who and what are you?

After the concert, Heidi gave me a hug as the band and dancers group hugged with the Carters onstage. Laurelle said she doesn’t need to go to another concert ever again, and Jacob agreed. While walking home in a daze amid star-struck fans in the street, my friend Snapchatted me and asked, “How was the concert?” At the time, all I could say was that I cried, twice.