Beyonce and Jay-Z’s On the Run Tour
September 20, 2014, 9pm (EST), HBO
After 21 shows, Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s On The Run Tour concluded in spectacular fashion with footage from the final two performances in Paris in September 2014. The nearly three hour concert weaves together stunning black and white montages of love and debauchery, cameos from famous actors, and adorable home videos as a backdrop for jaw-droppingly professional performances from the most powerful couple in entertainment. The infamous criminal lovers Bonnie and Clyde inspired the narrative of a queen and a gangster high on love and danger.
The show gets off to a slow but logical start with “03 Bonnie and Clyde,” their first collaboration together from way back in 2002. Beyoncé’s face is hidden under a mesh face mask and then unleashed in preparation for “Upgrade U” and “Crazy in Love.” As the show swings back Jay-Z’s way, things slow down again. This pattern is pretty much maintained in the first half of the show – Jay-Z’s sets feel like low key filler for when Beyoncé needs to change costumes. This is illustrative of something pretty important about the power couple doing a joint tour – they come from different musical worlds. Jay-Z is a brilliant rapper who crossed over into Pop and Beyoncé is far and away the best living Pop star. There’s an imbalance to the show that is quite noticeable until the brilliant final act transcends both of their music and feeds directly into the public’s yearning for information about their personal life.
Don’t misunderstand me – Jay-Z is still 100% on top of his game. His ferocious “You Don’t Know” almost made me take back my snide remarks about his sets being ideal bathroom breaks during the marathon special. My personal favorite of the night was “On To The Next One.” It was the first time since Beyoncé performed “Flawless” that I felt compelled to get up off the couch and dance. And then of course there’s the obligatory “N***** in Paris” in which Jay demands mosh pits and the Parisian audience enthusiastically delivers.
The entire show had to coalesce around the best collaborations between the two. The latest and greatest of those is “Drunk in Love” which featured Beyoncé doing her signature chair routine until Jay-Z joined her on stage. The sexiest moment of the show had to be during the “Partition” performance, in which Jay-Z ventured out into a raised platform in the audience while Beyoncé made us feel we were all privy to an intimate dance just for her husband. There were a couple of times when Bey filled in for another singer on one of Jay’s solo songs, my favorite instance being when she filled in for Justin Timberlake on “Holy Grail.” Jay-Z was almost able to hold his own in his own song!
Queen Bey’s most mesmerizing and stirring moments came when she had the stage to herself. She completely slays the heartbreak ballad “Resentment” while seated in a white wedding veil and pantsuit. What’s so interesting about this moment is that it gives dimension to the sensationalized romance the show is built around. It’s a song about infidelity and what forgiveness means when it comes to love. However, some of her biggest solo hits, namely “Single Ladies” and “If I Were a Boy” have nothing to do with that narrative of all-consuming and passionate love. That doesn’t make them any less necessary in a Beyoncé show. What do seem unnecessary but entirely welcome were a wonderful cover of Lauryn Hill’s “Ex-Factor” and a sample of Michael Jackson overlayed with her own lyrics.
My only gripe, which is actually a pretty big gripe, is the choppy editing. Beyonce’s perfectly calibrated and soul-stirring choreography is constantly interrupted by overzealous cuts and the inappropriate use of slow motion. Here’s hoping for a director’s cut – by that I mean blessed by Beysus Christ herself - on the blu-ray!
Ultimately, the narrative paid off when the “This is not real life” title cards peppered throughout the cinematic black and white “On the Run” clips gave way to a beautiful montage of candid home videos entitled “This is real life.” You get to see the happy couple be drunk and rich and obnoxious while they perform “Forever Young.” Then you get to see them become parents to the adorable Blue Ivy while Beyoncé tearfully belts out the ballad “Halo.” It doesn’t pack as much of an emotional punch as it could because it’s all so one-dimensionally joyful, but it’s certainly a sweet way to end things. Their closing remarks were beautifully written:
Bey: “It’s an honor to share the stage with you. I’m your biggest fan Mr. Carter.”
Jay: “It’s an honor to be up here with woman I love, the greatest entertainer of our time.”
Remember Beyoncé’s atrocious acting in three too many films? She’s terrible at it. What I witnessed at the end of the On the Run show was a couple who have genuine love and respect for each other.
- ”Die in love and live forever.”
The nearly three hour concert weaves together stunning black and white montages of love and debauchery, cameos from famous actors, and adorable home videos as a backdrop for jaw-droppingly professional performances from the most powerful couple in entertainment.