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Beyoncé headlined the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival on Saturday and delivered a virtuosa performance that has critics raving.
Her set included a comprehensive repertoire of her hits, featuring the reunion of Destiny’s Child and a cameo by her husband, Jay-Z.
But it was Beyoncé’s broad references to African-American culture in general, and her celebration of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in particular, that delighted fans and drew praise from aficionados.
The Los Angeles Times‘ music critic Mikael Wood said Beyoncé’s set “was one of the most impressive things I’ve seen in 20 years of professional show-going.”
The scale, the reach, the detail — and the feeling — simply put it on a level higher than those on which most other artists operate.
She was accompanied by approximately 100 dancers and musicians, including brass and string players, a drum line and a baton twirler; at several points, Beyoncé disappeared to change costumes and was replaced in the spotlight by a lively step squad.
The thoroughness of the presentation, with skits and long dance routines and radical rearrangements of some of Beyoncé’s best-known songs, was staggering — miles beyond what even the most ambitious of Coachella’s other performers are bringing to the desert.
Rolling Stone agreed that Beyoncé’s performance was an historic landmark — and not just because she was the first black woman to headline the festival: “Generations past once looked fondly on Woodstock 1969 as a crucial turning point in American culture; but in 2018, our Woodstock, our Monterey Pop, our Isle of Wight, is definitively Beyoncé’s headlining set at Coachella.”
And the New York Times‘ Jon Caramanica raved:
Let’s just cut to the chase: There’s not likely to be a more meaningful, absorbing, forceful and radical performance by an American musician this year, or any year soon, than Beyoncé’s headlining set at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival Saturday night.
It was rich with history, potently political and visually grand. By turns uproarious, rowdy, and lush. A gobsmacking marvel of choreography and musical direction.
Beyoncé was supposed to have performed at the festival last year, but postponed due to pregnancy.
“Beychella” was the #1 trend in the U.S. on Twitter on Saturday evening, as peers and fans reacted to her set:
I just saw the greatest show to ever happen. @beyonce
— Chance The Rapper (@chancetherapper) April 15, 2018
The only thing that has ever made me want to have children is seeing the glory of Beyoncé live. One day I’ll force my grandkids to listen to me rave about this performance.
— Eugene Lee Yang (@EugeneLeeYang) April 15, 2018
— Onyoncé (@onifinau) April 15, 2018
Though Beyoncé’s views have often been controversial, her performance at Coachella seems likely to stand with the great performances in pop history, politics aside.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named to Forward’s 50 “most influential” Jews in 2017. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, which is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.