Beyoncé has long been on my list of must-see artists.
When tickets for her Renaissance tour went on sale in London — where I live — I immediately tried, but failed to get seats for one of her May shows.
When she added three June dates at the city’s Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, I made another attempt, to no avail.
I gave up.
But when I started watching scenes of her European shows on Instagram, I got major FOMO (fear of missing out).
I scrolled through images of her dazzling costumes, from sparkling tunics and matching boots to evening gowns with gloves, and saw that the U.K. shows featured outfits by British fashion houses including Alexander McQueen and Roksanda Ilincic.
And, the whole thing was simultaneously broadcast on a stadium-width screen, with stunning visuals — no worries about sitting in a “nosebleed” seat then. What I saw gave me chills.
The price of Beyoncé tour tickets
I went back to the ticketing site just before one of Beyoncé’s June shows in London and found a single, seat for about £350 ($426) but decided it was out of my price range.
However, I continued to watch videos of the tour and eagerly read reviews calling the Renaissance album “a banging tour de force,” and “a rich tribute to the long history of Black dance music, from disco up through ballroom house.” Meanwhile, Rolling Stone magazine described her tour performance as “a stadium-shaking triumph.”
Browsing the tour’s European schedule, I identified Amsterdam on June 18 as a date I could make.
Finding a single ticket on a resale site was relatively easy and, at £187, it was much cheaper than the London seat.
Adding a return flight I found for £134 meant the outlay would still be less than the ticket I’d found for the U.K. performance, and I put the Amsterdam show ticket into my online cart.
Just before I hit “buy,” I checked reviews of the resale vendor, which were poor: people complained of not receiving tickets or finding them invalid, and I decided I couldn’t take the risk. I was very disappointed but tried to convince myself that Beyoncé would tour again.
I first danced to “Break My Soul,” a house music track and the lead song on the Renaissance album, at a London club night hosted by British DJ Annie Macmanus in 2022, where the crowd jumped and cheered at the sound of the opening bars.
Afterward, I listened to “Summer Renaissance,” Beyoncé’s reworking of one of my favorite songs, Donna Summer’s 1977 disco hit “I Feel Love,” on repeat. The rest of the album blew my mind: it was joyful, fabulous fun — and Beyoncé at her most confident and expressive (“Comfortable in my skin, Cozy with who I am,” she sings on “Cozy,” the album’s second track).
One day, I casually browsed her U.S. tour dates and found a single ticket for $137.40, including fees, on Sept. 27, at Caesar’s Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana, a date close to my birthday.
The seat was up in the gods, as Brits say, and had a slightly off-center view of the stage. On a whim, I bought it.
I was set to become one of the people fueled by feelings of YOLO (You Only Live Once) to travel thousands of miles to see their favorite artists perform. Earlier this year, Beyoncé became the most-awarded Grammy winner ever, with 32, so this was the chance of a lifetime.
I decided to make a vacation out of my trip — New Orleans being arguably one of the world’s best places to see live music — and found direct flights with British Airways for £750 return. The city is around 4,600 miles from London, a 10-hour flight away.
Preparing to see Beyoncé
I’ve traveled alone before, but I’ve never seen a live show by myself. I got ready by going solo to see a DJ set by Redmond — who goes by the performance name Honey Dijon — at London’s Southbank Centre about 10 days before the New Orleans show. She played her own mix of “Break My Soul” — I got lost in the beat and happily danced the night away.
I found New Orleans an easy place to sightsee on my own. Virgin Hotels New Orleans, where I stayed, is only a half-mile from the Superdome stadium, and was well-prepared to host the many concertgoers who stayed there.
The Sunday before the Renaissance show, I enjoyed the hotel’s Beyoncé Burlesque & Drag Brunch, where drag queen Laveau Contraire introduced a team of dancers in Bey-style leotards, feathers, heels and wigs.
I browsed a New Orleans newspaper online and discovered that members of Beyoncé’s band would perform at Snug Harbor, a jazz club on the city’s Frenchmen Street, the night before the concert.
I already had tickets to Preservation Hall, New Orleans’ iconic jazz venue, but headed to Snug Harbor afterward to catch the last hour of the show led by saxophonist Kat Rodriguez, who jammed with trumpeter Crystal Torres and singer Tayler Green, among others.
It was exciting to see such accomplished musicians up close.
Exploring New Orleans solo
Exploring New Orleans’ fascinating and varied history by myself was also straightforward: I joined a number of tours, from a guided walk around the city’s famous French Quarter, with its beautiful cast-iron balconies and bohemian galleries, to a cycle tour of areas including the arty Faubourg Marigny, which was founded by a Creole millionaire.
Stopping at an intersection, our cycle guide Danny Laurino pointed out that we were within view of three historical periods — a usual sight in the U.S. Standing in the 19th-century Marigny, we could see across the 18th-century French Quarter to the modern skyscrapers of the central business district, less than two miles away.
I also enjoyed a walking tour of the Garden District, full of fancy mansions originally inhabited by sugar cane plantation owners, and afterward browsed the stores of Magazine Street, which make up the district’s southern border.
Plantations along the Mississippi River
Most striking of all was a trip I took to the Whitney Plantation, about an hour’s drive from New Orleans along the Mississippi River. It’s one of the only sugar plantation museums that tells the story of the people who were enslaved there, rather than focusing on wealthy owners or architecture.
A Wall of Honor memorial is dedicated to several hundred slaves, while an exhibit describing the 1811 German Coast Uprising shows decapitated heads on poles, a recreation of the executed slaves who participated in the revolt.
The treatment of black people in the U.S. is explored by Beyoncé in her 2016 album, “Lemonade,” with images of black women on the steps of a former plantation home featuring on the title track’s video.
The video for “Formation,” set in Louisiana, shows the singer on top of a New Orleans police car as it sinks into floodwaters caused by Hurricane Katrina, and ends with Beyoncé making a “black-girl air grab” movement while sitting in a plantation house.
Beyoncé’s New Orleans performance
I was especially excited to see Beyoncé perform in New Orleans given its significance for her, and on the day of the show it seemed that everyone in the city was there to see the singer.
As I sipped coffee at the hotel’s rooftop bar in the morning, a woman in the swimming pool exclaimed: “I’m relaxing … I’m doing my aqua aerobics, I want to be limber for tonight. A man next to her in a yellow Beyoncé-themed top and cowboy hat held a pink drink.
I went for a good brunch at Willa Jean, where the cocktails were themed around Bey’s songs, and then headed to Vue Orleans, an interactive exhibit at the Four Seasons Hotel that helped me understand the city’s past.
As I walked toward the museum, a man in a passing car yelled: “It’s Beyoncé day!” out of the window.
Back at my hotel, a station for applying facial glitter was set up in the first-floor café, while several sequin-clad guests sat at the bar. Beyoncé’s fans make a serious effort with outfits for her shows, and as I walked along the sidewalk toward the Superdome, I was surrounded by hundreds of people whose clothes twinkled in the street lights.
Some were in diamante jumpsuits or long dresses, with sparkling cowboy hats or thigh-high metallic boots. Others had recreated Beyoncé’s costumes, with bee-themed colors (her “super” fans are known as the Bey Hive) or rhinestone-decorated sunglasses.
I gasped as I saw the Renaissance set inside the stadium. It was huge, with a football pitch-width screen and stage, with another circular stage in the middle of the floor.
Although my seat was high up, I still had a great view, and as Beyoncé rose up on a platform in a neon yellow gown to sing the first song of the night, “Dangerously In Love,” the atmosphere was electric. Her silver-dressed band, who I recognized from their performance the night before, appeared on a stepped stage behind her.
As she moved on to songs from the “Renaissance” album, wristbands — that each audience member had been given — lit up, and it felt like I was dancing inside a giant disco ball. Later, the lights changed from white to purple for “Drunk In Love,” and then flashed red, white and blue when Beyoncé sang “America Has A Problem.”
I had a sense of being at the world’s biggest party, where everyone came dressed in their glittering best — and everyone was welcome.
From the incredible visuals to fireworks and spectacular costumes and dancing, it’s hard to pick a favorite moment. Beyoncé repeated “Mama Louisiana” — a lyric from “Formation,” several times — which delighted the audience, and when Blue Ivy danced to “Black Parade,” it was hard to hear her mother’s singing for the screaming around me.
“I hope y’all had the time of your lives,” Beyoncé shouted over the final track, “Summer Renaissance,” as she appeared to float in the air above the audience in a shimmering silver gown.