Beyoncé had a few words to say to the Bey Hive at Lincoln Financial Field on Sunday night.
About a half-hour into her formidable-in-every-way Formation Tour, named after the lead single to her righteously aggrieved and musically empowered new album Lemonade, the Queen Diva took a few quiet moments to introduce a song from her first solo album, 2003's Dangerously In Love.
"This is a song about the most important relationship in your life," the 34-year-old pop superstar counseled her football stadium full of wildly enthusiastic, overwhelmingly female fans. "And that's your relationship with yourself."
The song that followed was "Me, Myself & I," and though it's 13 years old, its story of a sneaky scoundrel of a man whose wayward behavior leaves our heroine with no one to rely on but herself fits right in with Lemonade, which armchair analysts have widely interpreted as being about trouble in Beyoncé's marriage to hip-hop heavy hitter Jay Z.
"Ain't no need to cry," she sang. "I'm going to be my own best friend."
That same message of self-determination came through in Lemonade songs like "Formation," in which she expressed her self-sufficiency by declaring, "I got hot sauce in my bag" and urged her female fans: "If you know exactly who you are and where you're going say 'I Slay!'"
Lemonade is a thrilling piece of work that renders Beyoncé the superwoman more vulnerable and human than ever while she stretches herself musically in satisfying ways. That came across at the Linc in songs like the reggae bounce "Hold Up," which balances anger with a plea for reconciliation ("Hold up, they don't love you like I love you") and "Don't Hurt Yourself," in which she unleashed a hellacious blues yowl while reasoning with her betrayer — at the top of her lungs, as a female guitarist played a fiery, extended, hammy solo — that "when you hurt me, you hurt yourself."
But let's not get carried away with this "she's human after all, just like us" stuff.
This is Beyoncé we're talking about after all. As she changed from one skintight leotard to the next, occasionally accessorizing with a Sgt. Pepper-Michael Jackson-style military jacket or a floor-length red faux fur for "Crazy In Love," she of course looked fabulous. And she sounded great, singing a cappella on the Motown-ish "Love On Top" and really outdoing herself on a heartfelt cover of Prince's "Beautiful Ones." This led into a classy tribute in which the tragically departed pop genius' own recording of "Purple Rain" was played and the crowd sang along in unison while holding their mobile phones high.
The two-hour spectacle, which featured an at least 50-foot-high, high-def video tower that often showed a giant mirror image of the star, built to a purposefully cathartic conclusion with an awkward, ill-conceived presentation of Lemonade's powerful "Freedom" and Destiny's Child's "Survivor." The songs' impacts were undermined as Beyoncé and her dozen dancers splashed around in a wading pool at the end of the runway that extended into the crowd.
The Formation tour than finished off with "Halo," Beyoncé most reliably inspirational power ballad, which was introduced with a thank you to her fans and a reminder of the indomitable superstar's humble roots: "I'm just a country girl from Houston, Texas."
Skilled hype man and Snapchat king DJ Khaled opened the show, and it was no mere record-spinning, "Make some noise, Philly!" exercise, though those words were frequently spoken. His half-hour set was a nonstop parade of guest rappers, with an ever-larger and more enthusiastic reception granted in order to Yo Gotti (The Art of Hustle), bearded Philadelphia emcee Freeway, Philly duo Young Gunz ("Can't Stop, Won't Stop") and Maybach Music founder Rick Ross.
Finally, Philadelphia street-rap hero Meek Mill drove the early-arriving crowd into a frenzy, despite the conspicuous absence of Nicki Minaj, his duet partner on the recorded version of his closing song, "All Eyes On You." She had been seen backstage at Saturday's Roots Picnic.