Queen Bey returned to the stage after a four-year hiatus, performing at Dubai’s landmark resort Atlantis The Royal. A historic performance before a small crowd of 1,500 people marked a new chapter in the star’s career. Our founding member Sofia Celeste has the details.
Last week, Beyoncé headlined the Grand Reveal opening weekend of Dubai’s latest luxury hotel Atlantis The Royal, and we were there to witness Queen Bey’s first performance since 2018. Yes, you read that correctly.
The legendary star’s return to the stage was the culmination of the opening of the UAE capital’s latest landmark, in what turned out to be the weekender of the century. A micro crowd of a select group of 1,500 people were treated to one of the most monumental concerts in history. And since no photos were allowed, I’m happy to share the details of this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
- The evening commenced with “At Last” – Beyoncé emerged out of a mythological sun, onto the stage singing her rendition of Etta James’ “At Last”. As her voice broke through the silence of the starry Arabian night, I wasn’t the only one wiping away tears. She then thanked her “beautiful family” and “beautiful husband” noting that both her parents, husband Jay Z, and all three of her children were in attendance.
- No pics for the grandkids – Despite the fact that I was privy to a front-row seat, nobody would believe it, because I don’t have any visual proof to show my future grandchildren. Prior to the show, we received a note in our rooms saying no photos were allowed. Later in the evening, we were also given a little cloth pouch to encase our phones.
- Mother-Daughter Moment – As 11-year-old Blue Ivy descended the stage in trainers and a sequined red suit, her composure was impressive as she performed the track from Beyoncé’s The Lion King: The Gift, which was released in 2019. “If you love a brown-skinned woman, I want you to help us sing this,” the Ivy Park designer told the audience at The Royal Atlantis as she gave her daughter a hug.
- Guarded like the Pope – I haven’t seen security this tight since the funeral of Pope John Paul II. In fact, despite having been among just 1,500 individuals invited to the Atlantis The Royal resort, Beyoncé was nowhere to be seen throughout our 3-day stay. Hours before the show, ribbons of black-suited bodyguards began to march along the sprawling grounds of the 63-hectare expanse of the hotel grounds before the performance and we were all given designated pins, which helped security and organizers shuffle us off into our respective dinner locations while she made her way downstairs.
- All About the Details – The stage was set with a backdrop rendering of what seemed like African gods and goddesses depicted into an Ancient Greece temple of sorts. Beyoncé emerged from an opening within a golden sun symbolizing perhaps a metaphorical rising again. An homage to the region, the Grammy-Award winner was accompanied by the all-female orchestra Firdaus and the all-female Lebanese dance group The Mayyas, (who won season 17 of America’s Got Talent) to create a monumental spectacular before the small crowd. The star also wore some showstopping looks from regional designers. Her feather-studded yellow look was envisaged by the Dubai-based Atelier Zuhra, while a regal crimson number worn later in the show, was created by the Lebanese designer Nicolas Jebran with other looks from Frolov from Ukraine and Dolce and Gabbana.
- To Shake or Not To Shake the Jelly? – Maybe it was a political call? A personal preference? For those who were expecting a Homecoming-style dance routine to Crazy in Love… there wasn’t much of Beyonce’s usual “Bootylicious” choreography (Homecoming was a film that captured the star’s 2018 Coachella performance). Queen Bey descended the stage in measured, exalted splendor, assisted by her own dancers as well as the 36-dancer large Mayyas dance troupe who mesmerized with their glittering props and theatrical elongated fingers that at one point, corniced her head like a mythical medusa. This sent rumors swirling on the day that she was pregnant or that she was recovering from ankle surgery.
- The Stunts: Towards the end, Beyoncé strutted off the stage and tore through the awe-struck crowd, just a few feet away from me! She walked into the water fountain WITH HEELS ON and was then raised on an obelisk-like plateau. She sang her iconic hit Drunk in Love and was lifted sixteen feet into the sky as the massive fountain showered the space around her with water and fire.
As she hit her last note, it felt like the whole hotel exploded into fireworks around us. Actually, it did explode. Launched off the roof and balconies and all around the Palm Jumeirah, the most complex fireworks and drone show I have ever witnessed marked the end of the concert. There was even a missile of sorts that shot across the Palm from the old Atlantis The Palm to the Atlantis The Royal to commence the show. I looked up into the sky and swirled around, in awe as the embers rained around us. And with that, poof, Beyonce was gone!
- Anyone have 24 million in the bank? That’s how much it reportedly cost to bring Beyonce out to Dubai… not to mention her $100,000 per night stay in an 18-room mansion in the sky. I personally felt like I had eaten a few thousand euros worth of sushi myself, at the opening of Nobu by the Beach where I met Nobu Matsuhisa in the flesh and later where Adidas x Ivy Park’s latest collection was unfurled.
- No word on the Renaissance Tour – Sorry – With the Renaissance album already nominated for nine Grammys, the industry is expecting her to announce the dates of the Renaissance World Tour any day now… but strangely, she chose not to sing any of the songs from the album in Dubai on the 21st. Her 73-minute medley consisted of some of her most famous including Halo, Freedom, Crazy in Love, Countdown and Ave Maria.
- The VIPs – A welcome breath of fresh air, a diverse roster of stars filled the Blue Carpet. Saturday night saw stars like Black Panther’s Letitia Wright dressed in a sleek Prada number (swoon), Sonam Kapoor, Mona and Huda Kattan, Disha Patani, Ashley Park, sister R&B duo Chloe x Halle Bailey (Halle is the star of the upcoming Little Mermaid film), Ellen Pompeo, Sabrina Elba and swimmer Ibitihaj Muhammad (US Olympian and first Muslim female medalist) walked the Atlantis The Royal’s blue carpet before the Beyoncé concert.
We caught up with a few to ask them about their favorite Beyonce tracks:
“I have so many. Brokenhearted Girl, Beyoncé and Me, Myself and I. Off the Renaissance Album, Thick, I’m That Girl and Alien Superstar.” — Chloe Bailey.
“I am hoping she performs CUFF IT” — Halle Bailey.
“Everyone wants to hear the newer album. But I love a Beyonce throwback. Me myself and I that’s my song. You know when you have a spirit song? If she plays that, I think I’ll cry.” — Sabrina Elba.
“My favorite Beyoncé song of all time is Dangerously in Love and I am praying that she plays it today,” said Ibithaj Muhammad, US Olympian and first Muslim female medalist in the world.
- Takeaways from Atlantis The Royal – Jessica Michault, Deputy Editor of Harper’s Bazaar Arabia is the reason why I was invited and to whom I am eternally grateful. She was also my roomie in a deluxe room that overlooked the Palm Jumeirah and the city skyline – a view that just never ever gets old. Overall, the hotel is filled with multimedia and tangible artwork including a dramatic 11.5 metres tall lobby sculpture called Droplets, which represents the first drop of rain in a dry desert. A raining water and fire-filled entrance greets guests at the door, while pulsating nature display scenes are dispersed throughout. All guests were offered complimentary spa treatments from the Awaken spa and the Aeon Clinic, which offered hydro-facials and light therapy for VIP guests.
- F&B – Champagne toast anyone? We were treated to unlimited servings of champagne thanks to Moët & Chandon, which also provided free vending machines by the iconic pool area (we only saw three pools even though there are a reported 92 en-site). We were also treated to copious amounts of cuisine, of which our chill favorite was the American café Malibu where we ate twice and fell in love with the Jumbo shrimp tacos and edamame hummus. Another favorite was the bone marrow fried rice and wagyu with truffle skewers at the hotel’s latest Chinese fusion restaurant Ling Ling. We also spotted Chef José Andrés’ opening his latest iteration of Jaleo and attended the opening brunch of Nobu Matsuhisa’s Nobu by the Beach for which he hammered the ceremonial sake along with actress Rebel Wilson. The weekend also saw the launch of Kendall Jenner’s 818 Tequila on the resort’s sky pool, Cloud 22.
Images/video courtesy of Getty / Fashion Minority Alliance.