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Live Review: Beyoncé and Jay Z’s On The Run Tour at Metlife Stadium (7/12)

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Seeing a Beyoncé show from the nosebleeds is kind of like watching her perform on TV–except you can feel her presence when she’s onstage. Though she was sharing the spotlight with her husband Jay Z, even he’d act different when she walked out, or emerged up from a platform under the stage. There were clearly Jay Z fans in the house, but it was obviously Bey and her cohort who ruled the roost.

I mean, there’s only so much Jay Z can even do when he’s up against a performer like Beyoncé. She will sing, dance, stun, shade, simp, and strut all while encased in leather, lace, or liquid silk. He can rap. He does it well! But even when Beyoncé is freestyle dancing to Jay’s spitting verses, the verses become more powerful — her dancing is palpable even against his voice. While Beyoncé sings or dances and Jay Z has a moment off, he just watches her in awe, enjoying it almost as much as the audience.

For the second night of their On The Run tour at New Jersey’s Metlife Stadium, the pair pretty much stuck to the setlist that has already been established for the show, but seeing this list of tracks doesn’t do justice to the way they wove in and out of each other’s songs. True to the style of her lastest album, Beyoncé’s songs felt like brief vignettes of sex spiked with power. “Yonce” bled into two of Jay’s best-known sing-along songs, “Dirt Off Your Shoulders” and “Big Pimpin'”, in a way that highlighted Bey’s blazing white hot restraint as a foil for Jay’s lackadaisical swagger. Or even the concert’s beginning—”03 Bonnie & Clyde”—brought the pair’s strengths into contrast. Bey showed up with her brand new mesh facemask and black bodysuit, pushing past the borders of what her fans already expected from her. While Jay wore what has become his pretty standard get-up: jeans, a t-shirt, maybe a blazer. In some ways, it feels like Jay’s steadfast demeanor has opened the door for Beyoncé’s experimental, vibrant transformation. No matter how much she reps Houston (the setlist was sadly lacking “No Angel”), this woman has become an international force, picking up cultural highlights, tearing them apart, and putting them back together in her own image.

A great example of this was how Beyoncé turned “Love On Top” into a moving tribute to Michael Jackson by interpolating the intro of “I Want You Back” into her song’s melody. The mesh of brass and passion that those two songs contain felt like an unlikely jigsaw puzzle that really came together, and it sparked the only real comparison that can be made right now about Beyoncé’s position and influence. She’s the closest thing we’ve had to Michael Jackson in a long time, and if she stays on the trajectory she’s on, she might surpass him. I mean no shots to Jay at all, I love him as a rapper and a performer and hell, I even love Magna Carta Holy Grail. I’m the rare fan that absolutely loved The Blueprint 3 and lost it the most when he performed “On To The Next One”. But he doesn’t hold a candle to his brilliant wife when they’re onstage together. She’s operating on some higher plane and you can feel power emanating from her core. Jay is just a cool guy with a nice flow.

And, in the end, while both performers managed to please fans with old favorites, “Crazy In Love” or even Jay’s verse from “Clique”—which is only two years old!—there’s no touching the power of brand new collaborations like “Drunk In Love” or the tour’s namesake track. Even “Single Ladies” felt old and a little out-dated compared to the liquor-fueled frenzy of that song. While gossip about the demise of the couple’s marriage swirls (and dammit if “Why Don’t You Love Me” didn’t sound particularly heartbreaking that night), the grinning goofiness and intense sexuality of this song seems to singlehandedly put those rumors to bed. Either this tour is the last, magnificent act in a long-tailed money-making franchise, or it is actually possible that Bey and Jay are deeply, madly, foolishly in love. But let’s be real: even the façade that they are is better than the love story most of us will get to experience.

Setlist:
’03 Bonnie & Clyde
Upgrade U
Crazy in Love
Show Me What You Got
Diamonds are Forever
Niggas in Paris
Tom Ford
Run the World
Bow Down/I Been On
Flawless
Yonce
Dirt Off Your Shoulder
Big Pimpin’
Ring the Alarm
On to the Next One
Clique
Diva
Baby Boy
U Don’t Know
Ghost/Haunted
No Church in the Wild
Drunk in Love
Public Service Announcement
Why Don’t You Love Me
Holy Grail
Fuckwithmeyouknowigotit
Beach Is Better
Partition
99 Problems
If I Were a Boy
Ex Factor (by Lauryn Hill)
Song Cry
Resentment
Love on Top
Izzo (H.O.V.A.)
I Just Wanna Love U (Give it 2 Me)
Single Ladies
Hard Knock Life
Pretty Hurts
Part II (On the Run)
Young Forever
Halo
Lift Off (instrumental)

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