As I worked my way through the bustling crowd at Nashville's Nissan Stadium to get to my seat, I already began to detect a difference. Demographic groups I'd previously seen in smaller portions were substantially larger, necking up with Bey's primary audience of black women in their 20 and 30's. The most notable additions were children (which is interesting because Beyoncé's music hasn't been kid-friendly since 2013), older black women and white men. I thought "Humm...this is interesting," and quickly got back to focusing on locating my section. Once there, I began chatting up the woman next to me. Usually when I do this, it results in a fun stan-session and they're my BFF for the next few hours. This time, I was dealing with someone who described themselves as "a big fan," but only had the Lemonade album, and on stream at that (which is not ownership). Sigh. When Chime for Change ads and music videos for Montina Cooper, Sophie Beem and sister-duo Chloe & Halle started to play, I heard people ask "What's Chime for Change? Who are these singers?" I had to explain that Beyoncé was a co-founder of a fund-raising organization for women, Cooper was one of her background singers, and that the other artists were those she's signed to her record label. "Beyoncé has her own label?," inquires a woman wearing a shirt that reads "'Cause I Slay," a lyric from the single "Formation." Double sigh.
A couple of numbers in, the opening chords of "Me, Myself & I" (my favorite ever) slowly ring out. I identify it instantly and jump down the stairway. I couldn't contain myself. It was last on the set-list in 2007 for "The Beyoncé Experience;" hands were up and amen's were shouted like it was a church service then. At this venue though, I apparently was the only one prepared for the deliverance. No one in my area seemed to recognize the song (I was pretty darn close on the side too). Bey talked about how it came from her first solo album and thanked everyone for riding with her since Destiny's Child arrived 20 years ago. I grumbled under my breath, "Too bad most of the people over here don't know anything about that." Later, footage of her talking to a camera at age 16 comes across the screen. I smile warmly. It came with DC's debut, back when there were CD-ROM bonus features. I reminisced about how impressed I was with Bey's focus and spirituality. I related to her perspective and found her adorably endearing. When material like this is pulled out of the vault for the stage, it's precious. A flood of memories rush over; you recall your life at the time, the significance of that piece and where your favorite artist (who's likely reflecting back with you) was in their career. It creates a nostalgic nirvana that's overcoming, particularly when it's happening at mass. Watching that tape threw me into thinking about how I have practically grown up with this woman (we're close in age) and the mark that she's made on me. Additionally, as a music nerd, it's such an honor to have bared witness to an artist's development from the early stages and be able to testify to it. You get to carve "I was here" in the door. However, as with "Me, Myself & I," my near-nirvana was abruptly interrupted when someone said, "Whoa, where'd that come from?"
Radio Rachels, Bandwagon Beckys and Yellow-Jacket Yanceys (another BeyHive term; yellow-jackets are people who wear their fandom like a jacket) have always trickled in, but never in volume like now. Honestly, I started to see a shift in atmosphere at the 2009 "I Am...World Tour" (i.e. the "Single Ladies" era), but I didn't mind it because, A)it wasn't as seismic and B) I excitedly thought these new faces were going to invest in the brand. Fast-forward to 2016, it's clear the larvae never became bees, and I'm snickering because "Single Ladies" wasn't on the set-list. I inadvertently and vicariously got revenge; you know the Fair-weather Fanny's were salivating and waitin' for that song. I may have entered the stadium with some pep in my step, but I was lowkey sulking through the exit. I found myself buying more merchandise than intended to compensate for feeling like I didn't have an exclusive experience. No lie, the first thought I had leaving my chair was "She's gotten too big. It's official." Every stan eagerly waits for their fave to reach an elevated status because they want the world to realize how much they offer. The expectation is that once others get a whiff, they'll see why you're a believer and join you. Oh, expectations; such troublesome little things they are. It's not that I figured all would convert to the gospel of Beysus (don't @ me; I don't care if you find that blasphemous), but I didn't anticipate being a "Stranger in Moscow" either (yes, that was a MJ reference *smiles*). It was once a family reunion, but now everyone's in the yard fixin' them a plate and they ain't put no money in the contribution jar. Who told Ray-Ray next door he could get a neck-bone?
There was about 8 minutes where I was able to successfully tune everyone out: when Beyoncé performed "1+1" and Prince's "The Beautiful Ones" behind each other. CHILE...... 1) "1+1" is in my personal top 5, 2) Bey cuts up when she does it live, 3) This 2-pack had me shook when she originally did it in 2011, and 4) "TBO" is one of my favorite Prince tracks. It was transporting to hear her voice fill the air and burst through the night sky. That THX sound certification was worth every dollar, haha. When I told my friend about this, she said "See, that's what you came for. That feeling right there. You didn't come for everyone else." This is true, but for me, a key feature was missing. I guess I'm going to have to stack my dough for one of those VIP packages, wait for an "intimate performance," struggle to see on the floor (I'm tiny) or go with one of my honeycomb partners. Anything to keep Becky from interrupting my stanning.