Jul 12, 2014

Beyoncé and Jay Z's 'On the Run' show at MetLife Stadium displays their powerhouse talent and modern romance

Whether they took the stage together or apart, Beyoncé and Jay Z's performances on Friday were sexy, smart and sweet. Jay had a playful swagger on ‘Public Service Announcement’ while Bey’s ‘Run the World (Girls)’ and ‘Single Ladies’ showed off her power. They sang together as often as they could, such as on ‘Crazy in Love’ and ‘Part II (On The Run).’

Some couples finish each other’s sentences. For their new tour, Jay Z and Beyoncé illuminate each other’s songs — trading verses, choruses and hits with a rapport that can be witty, teasing, sexy, sweet, tense, or even conspiratorial.

The title of the show, “On the Run,” drove home that last mood, emphasized by a video introduction that depicted the stars as glamorous criminals on the lam. The pair extended the theme to the opening song at their first MetLife Stadium show on Friday. The tune “'03 Bonnie & Clyde” zoomed us back to the couple’s first recorded collaboration, 11 years ago.

The song kicked off an elaborate evening that captured aspects of both a marriage and a corporate merger, a meeting of styles and a value-for-money touring lure.


For Jay, the event represents his third co-headlining show in as many summers, following runs with Eminem and Justin Timberlake. Taken together, they trace an escalation in intimacy. Jay kept his distance from Em in their tour, while with J.T. he exuded a joyful bromance. But the tete-a-tete with Beyoncé goes further. It allows the stars to present themselves in an idealized, equally balanced, and very modern romantic relationship.

However commanding the stars proved together, their approaches remained distinct. Jay’s rapping in hits like “Public Service Announcement” or “N----s in Paris” had an easy confidence, a playful swagger. Bey’s presentation in songs like “Run the World (Girls)” or “Single Ladies” had a discipline that bordered on the militaristic.

She’s caffeine, he’s cognac.

Beyoncé’s performance also featured more elaborate stage setups. Key numbers she fronted boasted full choreography, while Jay would often appear alone, holding the stage with just his verse and his charm.

The two appeared together as often as could be managed. They featured songs they had already recorded together, like the billowing “Crazy in Love” or the more recent “Part II (On The Run).” For some performances, Bey sang on Jay’s tracks what other stars had vocalized on the original album version, like “Tom Ford” or “Holy Grail.”

The pair featured some smart juxtapositions, like one that moved from Beyoncé’s “Countdown” to Jay’s “99 Problems.”


Beyoncé softened her woman warrior tone a bit with songs like the sensually enraptured “Drunk in Love,” with Jay cuddling her, or the yearning “If I Were a Boy,” which led into a soulful cover of Lauryn Hill’s “Ex-Factor.”

Bey delivered her great song of betrayal, “Resentment,” while wearing a bridal veil. At MetLife Stadium, she held to her recent switch-up of the lyric. She sang of a 12-year relationship, as opposed to the original song’s six years, measuring her actual time with Jay — and stoking gossip of marital tension.

As the show progressed, the costumes and videos changed from those presenting the couple as parallel powerhouses to ones that showed them in more cooing moments. Late in the event, images of daughter Blue Ivy appeared, as well as projections of the couple’s 2008 wedding and photos of a pregnant Bey with an adoring Jay looking on.

If this hardly brought fans inside their marriage, it did display its broadest outlines. Ultimately, that mattered less than what the union brought fans — a show more varied and interpersonal than either performer could have delivered alone.


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