Saturday night’s TIDAL X: 1015 concert got off to a bit of a slow start, with Robin Thicke taking the stage to perform slow jam “Lost Without U” before a mostly empty Barclays Center as audience members trickled in. But those who did get there on time were rewarded: Beyoncé appeared onstage soon after Thicke, giving what would be her first of two performances that evening. And the superstar, who apparently sustained an ear injury during the show, instantly filled the huge arena with the energy it had been missing before.
Beyoncé and Thicke were part of a lineup that also included heavy hitters Nicki Minaj, Alicia Keys, Common, T.I., Alicia Keys, and Lauryn Hill, along with up-and-coming acts like Lil Yachty and Bebe Rexha. The annual concert — TIDAL’s second — raised money for the Robin Hood Foundation, which aims to end poverty in New York, and featured video interludes touting the importance of education.
There was also a focus on the election: After performing “Deep,” a Nas collaboration about police violence, Thicke said, “Make sure to register to vote — and don’t vote for the white man,” while Minaj seemingly slammed Donald Trump’s spouse when she said, “Barack needed a Michelle and Bill needed a motherf—ing Hillary. You better pray to God you don’t get stuck with a motherf—ing Melania.” (She later clarified on Twitter that she wasn’t “dragging” Melania. “She seems nice,” Minaj wrote. “But a smart man knows he needs a certain ‘kind’ of woman when running for President/attempting greatness.”)
And there was music, too. Here are the highlights.
Lauryn Hill races through ’90s favorites
The award for Best Dressed — or, at least, Most Memorably Dressed — goes to Hill, who came out wearing three different floral patterns and eyeglasses rimmed with silver glitter. Her performance was just as eye-catching: With the help of an excellent backing band, the former Fugees member delivered solo songs like 1998’s “Final Hour” and “Lost Ones” with an infectious energy, showing off her rapid-fire delivery — and waking up the audience, faltering after more than three hours of nonstop music at that point, in the process.
Nicki Minaj owns the stage
Minaj lit up the arena as soon as she came on with “Roman’s Revenge,” which she led with before launching into the ultimate crowd pleaser: her verse off Kanye West’s “Monster.” She captivated the crowd as she confidently strutted around, running through her features on Yo Gotti’s “Down in the DM” and DJ Khaled’s “Do You Mind” along with solo tracks like the recently released “The Pinkprint Freestyle” and sing-along-friendly “Beez in the Trap.” Then she brought out a special guest: her butt. Okay, okay, the special guest was Fetty Wap, but she prefaced his appearance by removing the jacket tied around her waist to reveal her backside, covered by just a black thong and her lace bodysuit, and twerk at length to Fetty’s “Trap Queen.” He then came out to perform “679,” though nothing could top the unrestrained fun Minaj seemed to be having when it was just her onstage doing her thing.
Common drops the backing track for “Black America Again”
One of the night’s most poignant moments came when Common rapped “Black America Again” a capella, putting all the focus on the new track’s powerful lyrics, which reference everything from the Black Lives Matter movement (“I know that black lives matter, and they matter to us”) to Star Wars casting (“You put a n—- in Star Wars, maybe you need two”). The Oscar winner is often heralded for his socially conscious rap, and this no-frills performance alone proved why.
Alicia Keys awes with “Hallelujah”
After opening with “Girl on Fire,” Keys stood next to the piano to play a beautifully raw — and surprisingly lively — rendition of “Hallelujah,” a haunting, soulful single she dropped this past summer. The recorded version is already stirring, but it took on a new life live, especially when Keys finished it off by passionately belting the last notes.
Beyoncé closes the show with a plea to fans
The biggest surprise of the night — sorry, Fetty — came when Beyoncé appeared to perform “6 Inch” just about an hour into the show. She and her dancers stayed in what looked like a giant bookcase for the duration of the Lemonade track, with Beyoncé twisting her body and occasionally hanging upside down as she, somehow, still managed to sing (beautifully, at that). Afterward, she slowed it down a bit with the gorgeous “Haunted,” and left, leaving poor Salva — a fine producer, just not Beyoncé — with the responsibility of following her.
But that wasn’t it: She came back to close the show with “All Night,” a song she sweetly introduced. “This song makes me feel so good,” she said, smiling. “I’m happy to sing it for y’all tonight.” And you could tell she meant it, as she basically glowed throughout the entire performance. Things took on a different tone though once the music stopped: “Sometimes I feel very powerless,” she said. “But doing nothing right now is not an option y’all … We are not helpless. The fire is still burning. Please go out and vote this November.” A Nelson Mandela quote — “May your choices reflect your hopes not your fears” — appeared on the screen overhead while Beyoncé spoke, and “VOTE” flashed on that same screen seconds later when she strolled off. And with that final message, TIDAL X: 1015 was over, after nearly five hours of performances by more than 20 artists.
Watch the full thing over at TIDAL, where the concert is currently streaming.