Jay Z and Beyoncé
On the Run Tour
Sun Life Stadium, Miami
Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Better Than: Any power couple in the history of the world.
We were somewhere around NW 175th Street, on the edge of victory and madness, when the traffic kicked in. Suddenly, a light burst into the sky at Sun Life Stadium. There was hooting and honking all around us. We couldn't stop here; this was Bey country.
Actually, the shitty traffic and the running through the parking lot to get inside the sold-out debut of Jay Z and Beyoncé's world tour set the right mood for the show. See, Jay and Bey are also On the Run. It's the theme of their production. They're trying to escape the media, their place in pop music, the haters, the bullshit -- even sometimes each other. But after last night's Miami kickoff, it's clear the Carters are infinitely more powerful as a package.
Jay and Bey opened with the iconic "'03 Bonnie & Clyde," emerging from backstage clad in black with their faces hidden by fashionable masks.
The power couple were already running from police. We wondered: What's the crime? Being black and rich? Famous and in love? Larger than life but still human?
They're guilty of all three, but they won't let anyone take them down.
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Right off the bat, the Carters' double feature was a wild hit fest. They've both been huge stars for longer than most people have careers. Between them, there is something like 30 or 40 years of chart-topping success. Literally every track performed was a sing-along smash, from "Crazy in Love" to "Big Pimpin'," "Flawless," and "Tom Ford."
These power couples usually have a major breadwinner, but not here. There has never been, and may never be again, such a well-matched musical marriage.
The more-than-two-hour, 40-song On the Run set is organized the same way as Jay's previous double-headliner, The Throne, with Kanye West. In short, Mr. and Mrs. Carter take turns holding down the stage, playing a couple of Beyoncé tracks here, sharing the spotlight for some duets, Jay having his turn to run through rap classics.
There wasn't as much witty banter between them as Jay shared with Kanye, though. Any storytelling between songs was driven by frantic video clips of cop chases and other violent outbursts.
We watched our criminally cool lovers drive through the desert in old cars and astride motorcycles. Screened via the jumbotron, the On the Run mini-movies showed Jay and Bey hiding in dingy motel rooms and making love in abandoned churches.
On stage, Beyoncé was joined by male and female dancers, while Jay Z murdered his tracks without assistance, always taking the time to hype the crowd in true hip-hop fashion.
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The On the Run show also boasted a lot of call-and-response moments. Both superstars have earned the right to sell out concerts across the country.
At times, we wondered if Beyoncé was really singing. How can a person shake her body like a sophisticated stripper and sing with studio precision? The record was set straight when she leaned into the crowd and allowed a lucky fan to sing along. We spent the rest of the show in utter amazement.
Of course, Beyoncé's fashion was impeccable. The woman must have lost her pants on the run, because she was showing leg for days. In both a visual and vocal way, she is on her Tina Turner shit.
From black, lacy lingerie getups to full-on bridal veils and a dramatic, sweeping train made of a black-and-white American flag, she was putting the rest of the world to shame. Even Jay was impressive in rotating ensembles of black leather with Kanye-esque accents, like giant, billowing pant scarves.
Yes, at times, it felt a bit like the Carters' chemistry wasn't all it could be. With the media caught in a putrid hailstorm of rumors and accusations, we couldn't help noticing the way Bey shook off his kisses or turned away from his doting playfulness. But it seems this could all be part of the act, as one of the most dramatic moments comes halfway through, when Beyoncé goes into "Why Don't You Love Me," acting out a painful evening of leaving 13 angry messages, all "Where are you? You know I can't sleep without hearing your voice," and "Nothing's open at 3 in the morning but legs." During the track, she took giant breaks of silence to just stare vehemently into the crowd, her hair blowing in fake wind. It was probably one of the rawest things we've ever seen at a stadium show.
Beyoncé has made a career of playing the tough, I-don't-needa-man boss lady. And On the Run hit a high note during "Resentment," when we watched as the pair shot at each other in that abandoned church, dressed in wedding attire. Images of guns flashed across the screen with words like "this is not real." Bey shot Jay dead and made off alone. But then the show went one deeper.
"Love is an act of faith and forgiveness," she said as the jumbotron showed time moving backward. "Forgiveness is giving up my right to hurt you for hurting me. Forgiveness is the final act of love."
Bey worked through a thrilling rendition of "Love on Top"; then she and Jay traded hits "H to the Izzo," "Single Ladies," and more before everything came to a halt. The authorities had arrived. We heard chopper wings over a dark and evil beat, just as Bey Z grabbed their automatic guns and shot into the sky. They hopped in their car and hit the street, but they knew it was too late.
"Die in love and live forever," Beyoncé said. Then the stage erupted in blue and red light as the Carters' initials, J and B, were joined in the middle of the jumbotron by a giant cross. "What's a perfect love story anyway?" she crooned as the couple met at center stage. They walked together, high-fiving fans and celebrating each other in their lyrics.
Behind Bey Z, on the screen, flashed images of what could be their wedding footage. And as they entered their final track, "Forever Young," Jay told the crowd to take out their Zippos, their cameras, "whatever you've got," and light the place up. His face was visibly astounded as the whole arena came to life like the Milky Way.
Beyoncé moved into "Halo," and the images changed to show the Carters playing with their daughter, Blue Ivy. The couple just stared and smiled, as if no one else was around. "This is real life," the screen flashed, and everyone lost their shit.
Jay and Bey are not only music's most powerful, talented, and fashionable couple -- they're also the most adorable.
They finished with a reprise of "Forever Young" and gave the crowd their all before taking each others' hand and walking off into the darkness of myth and wonder. Because that's the only place a couple like this can exist.
Before leaving, though, Beyoncé asked everyone to applaud for the dancers and crew. Then she turned and said, "Thank you, Mr. Carter."
"Thank you, Mrs. Carter," Jay replied, and credits rolled.
The Crowd: You've never seen a crowd as diverse as the OTR gang. Young and old, black and white (and everything else, duh), men and women, gay and straight, well-dressed and just... well, at least they were dressed.
Personal Bias: I'm pretty pissed Rick Ross didn't show up to perform his megahit with Jay. What good is a Miami kickoff without any local superstar appearances?
Shoutout: My awesome roommate who caught the first few songs for me, the kind cops/security who let me skip the line into the parking lot, and my homie Ryan who worked some kind of magic to get me my ticket. Y'all are beautiful unicorns.
Jay Z and Beyonce's On the Run Tour Setlist
-"'03 Bonnie & Clyde"
-"Crazy in Love"
-"Diamonds are Forever" Remix
-"Niggas in Paris"
-"Run the World"
-"Dirt Off Your Shoulder"
-"On to the Next One"
-"You Don't Know"
-"Church in the Wild"
-"Drunk in Love"
-"Why Don't You Love Me"
-"Beach Is Better"
-"If I Were a Boy"
-"Ex-Factor" (Lauryn Hill Cover)
-"Love on Top"
-"Want You Back" (Jackson 5 Cover)
-"H to the Izzo"
-"Hard Knock Life"
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-"Forever Young" (Reprise)
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