From the front row at Beyoncé’s Atlantis The Royal performance

Here’s what went down at the singer’s first live performance in four years.

The opening of Atlantis The Royal required the presence of a megastar and the most-talked-about hotel in Dubai found just that in Beyoncé. With a reported fee of $24 million for the invite-only show on Saturday 21 January, Queen Bey set the stage on fire – quite literally.,

2022 will go down in history as the year of Beyoncé. A year in which the 41-year-old R&B songstress returned from a brief musical hiatus with aplomb. Her seventh studio album Renaissance debuted with more than 43 million streams on Spotify — a new record. There were spats with Kelis over interpolation, and Break My Soul ended up being the summer’s earworm, wiggling into the collective conscious. 

With no visuals to accompany the project, the energy at Beyoncé’s first live show in four years was at a fever pitch by the time she hit the stage, performing to a 1,000-strong crowd of celebrities, influencers and editors (including FACT).

Beyonce in Dubai

During the next 60-minute performance, the singer strutted and danced her heart out for the legions of adoring fans gathered around the purpose-built stage backed by the futuristic façade of Atlantis The Royal.

As fireworks announced her arrival, Beyoncé opened with a stunning rendition of the Etta James’ classic, At Last. A song she previously performed at the inauguration ceremony of President Barack Obama and a seemingly apt fit for a hotel eight years in the making. Dressed in a bright yellow gown and feather backpiece from Dubai designer Atelier Zuhra, the singer cycled through some of her biggest ballads, including XoFlaws and All, Ava Maria, and Halo.

Beyonce in Dubai

While the ballad-driven first half of the show comprised mainly of lesser-known album tracks, faultless vocals reigned supreme. During a beautiful rendition of Brown Skin Girl, Bey brought out her daughter Blue Ivy Carter who arrived on the stage beaming before joining the formation of dancers and Firdaus, a 48-person all-female orchestra, for a perfectly choreographed moment.

Beyoncé performed several more songs from her concept album The Lion: King The Gift. Dressed in a dazzling red outfit (complete with radiant silver sunburst headpiece) from Lebanese designer Nicolas Jebran. This tribute to the region was enhanced by a performance from Meyaas, the 36-strong Lebanese dance troupe and recent winners of America’s Got Talent. Dancing in perfect unison and creating serpent-like shapes behind Beyoncé, the segment was choreographed to Punjabi MC and Jay-Z’s Beware of the Boys hinting that the rapper may join his wife on stage. 

Beyonce in Dubai

Beyoncé didn’t come to Dubai to play. As her dancers splashed about in the fountain upon which the stage was erected, the singer literally breathed life into Atlantis The Royal’s sky blaze fountain, as her Kendrick Lamar collaboration Freedom filled the water feature with erupting flames. 

The playful Jay-Z tease continued with the alluring remix to Crazy In Love with a slowed-down version of the track from the film 50 Shades Of Grey. Mid-way through, when Jay-Z would start his flow (he never did make it to the stage), the song switched to the uptempo album version, causing the crowd to erupt in screams and applause.

Beyonce in Dubai

As the concert reached a crescendo with Countdown and Naughty Girl, it was clear that the night was drawing to a close. Dressed in pink, Beyoncé walked off stage and into the heart of the sky blaze fountain. As she serenaded the crowd (including her mother, father, children and celebrities such as Liam Payne, Rebel Wilson, Chloe x Halle, and Letitia Wright), the megastar rose into the sky on an elevated platform. She belted out each pitch-perfect note to her 2013 hit Drunk In Love as fireworks burst from the hotel balconies and strategically placed barges in the bay of Palm Jumeriah. Just as quickly as Beyoncé had graced us with her presence, she was gone. Disappearing amongst the plumes of water as all eyes were averted skywards. 

Despite not performing any tracks from Renaissance (we guess she’s saving them for her forthcoming world tour), Beyoncé delved into her back catalogue to deliver a memorable night of spectacle and surprising theatrics.

Whilst the show commanded a no photography policy from those in attendance, Beyoncé’s Dubai show lived up to the hotel’s promise of “The Grand Reveal”.

Atlantis The Royal opens to guests on 10 February 2023.

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David Tapley - Editor-in-Chief
As editor-in-chief of the region’s most fiercely local lifestyle publication, David is a self-proclaimed hip-hop aficionado, championing all things food, travel, street art, and streetwear across the United Arab Emirates and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

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