On April 14, 2018, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter etched her name even deeper into the history books with a transcendent, career-spanning Coachella performance. The show was the first of two headlining sets—the second taking place the following weekend—with Bey making it a point to call out the fact that she was the festival’s first-ever Black female headliner. The whole thing, in fact, was a year behind schedule: Beyoncé was originally slated to headline in 2017 in the wake of her ultra-personal Lemonade, but postponed after announcing she was pregnant. So in 2018, some 10 months after delivering Sir and Rumi, Beyoncé got up on one of the biggest stages in the world, in front of millions collectively freaking out during the livestream, and delivered one of the most memorable live performances in the history of that festival or any other.
Her set—presented in full on HOMECOMING: THE LIVE ALBUM—which included highlights from the whole of her catalog dating back to her Destiny’s Child days, spoke directly to her moment as historymaker, synthesizing generations (and regions) of Black musicality through the filter of an HBCU-style marching band (members of DrumLine Live, performing here as Queen Bey’s “The Bzzzz”). In the American college tradition, she called the performance “Homecoming,” packing it over the course of nearly 40 songs with the sounds of brass-heavy New Orleans second-line bands (“Single Ladies [Put a Ring on It]”); reggaetón (“Mi Gente”); bounce music (“Formation”); Washington, DC’s go-go (“Love On Top”); her native Houston’s chopped and screwed music (“I Been On”); dancehall reggae (“Baby Boy”); and the Dirty South hip-hop she grew up on (“Crazy In Love,” “Diva”). For good measure, there’s also a duet with her husband (“Deja Vu”), a Destiny’s Child reunion (“Say My Name,” “Soldier”), and as an added bonus at the end of the album, a backyard-barbecue-ready studio rendition of Maze featuring Frankie Beverly’s “Before I Let Go” that also interpolates Cameo’s “Candy.”
You can hear the voice of Malcolm X on “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” and there’s an a cappella version of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” known colloquially as the “Black National Anthem”—beyond blockbuster production values and expert musicianship, it remains an earnest tribute to her experience as a young Black woman working to contribute to the rich musical legacy that inspires her. And according to her mother, this was the plan from the beginning: In an Instagram post the week of the first Coachella performance, Tina Knowles wrote that her daughter told her, “I have worked very hard to get to the point where I have a true voice. And at this point in my life and my career I have a responsibility to do what’s best for the world and not what is most popular.” But the two are far from mutually exclusive, and that performance—and this vital document of it—is proof.