“Forgiveness is me giving up my right to hurt you for hurting me. Forgiveness is the final act of love.” –Beyoncé, Singer/Actress/Pastor
“They’ll never be able to stop us.” –Jay Z, Rapper/Truth Teller
The Beyoncé of 12 years ago could barely fathom the idea of celebrity couples. In an October 2002 VIBE cover story, where her future husband is mentioned as a rumored suitor (along with Mos Def and Nelly), a newly solo Beyoncé poo-poos cliché courtship. “Very few celebrities have taken the time to talk to me before they try to fly me out somewhere or give me gifts,” she says. “Telling people they like me, but we’ve never had a conversation? That’s a big turnoff. It seems like being with a celebrity [Ed Note: let alone one-half of the most powerful couple in entertainment] would be really, really hard.”
The Beyoncé and Jay Z relationship began somewhere in there. By then, he was already wining and dining her. They’ve since progressed from being guarded to sharing measured, filtered intelligence reports on their marriage and (finally!) giving us the joint tour we always wanted. Their public affirmations of love have always been spilled with precision. They “secretly” marry. She finally calls him her husband. He friskily love-taps her booty during a performance. She makes a personal documentary for HBO, Life Is But A Dream, appearing without makeup and saying charming things like, “I think I need to go listen to ‘Make Love to Me’ and make love to my husband.” They simulate foreplay in a video for her very sexy song, “Partition.” They embark on a dual tour.
It’s a controlled message, of course. But On the Run represents a peak PDA moment for the Carters, the pinnacle of every voyeuristic fan’s desire for Beyoncé and Jay Z domestic juice. Their blips of sincere yet programmed PDA (in this case, caresses, grins and seconds-long stares on stage) coincide with increased scrutiny, after the elevator incident between Jay Z and Solange that showed that Jay Z and Beyoncé just might be real*.
On The Run—a show with minimum glitches and complete power—came to New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium on July 11. In addition to this long intro, here are 15 more thoughts.
1. On The Run cycles through a relationship’s good parts and ugly parts; it’s Beyoncé and Jay Z before and after. The opening screen reads, “This is not real life.” At the end of the show, after adorable home footage of Blue Ivy, Beyoncé and Jay Z doing real-people things out of the spotlight, it reads, “This is real life.” But it’s not, because Beyoncé and Jay Z are aliens.
2. Fittingly, but also strangely, these two choose crime as the narrative thread for their concert imagery—via screen-projected video clips that sync with each song (the same type of visuals as their “On the Run” tour trailer). The theme could’ve been more positive, maybe something presidential. But the Bonnie and Clyde plot puts these superstars in an environment where they, in the words of Reasonable Doubt Jay Z, “hustle out of a sense of hopelessness, sort of a desperation.” It’s a road Jay deserted and one Beyoncé’s only known as fantasy. In these clips, she shoots a gun while making cute angry faces. She gets shot in a chapel. When they show the part in the “99 Problems” video where Jay gets pummeled with bullets, it’s supposed to be ironic. That never happened. Jay Z is here making millions with his wife.
3. The Carters know how to make an entrance and exit. The show format goes: Alternating sets where Jay pops up from under the stage as Bey and her dancers glide away. The transitions serve as reminders that Beyoncé has made songs about ditching scrubs and demanding respect. Jay Z has made songs about pimping and running the streets.
4. So they fuse their discography of hits with appropriate transitions and playful banter. It almost becomes a game of: guess which song the other one will perform next. As Beyoncé finishes her pretty rendition of Lauryn Hill’s “Ex Factor” with backup vocalists singing “cry for me,” it bleeds into Jay’s “Song Cry.” Another moment: a chair that swivels as Jay, in a black leather jacket and gangster hat, finishes up “Big Pimpin’” and Beyoncé beings “Ring the Alarm” (over the beat to “Takeover”).
5. Before a thong-clad Beyoncé does that brief peep show segment for “Naughty Girl,” there’s another video that plays into some of your fantasies. It shows her and Jay in a café (someone’s reading a newspaper nearby with their mugshots on the cover). They leave and go kiss and fondle each other in a phone booth. Jay Z later videotapes Bey while she’s lying on a bed full of stacks of money as Kanye West’s “Hell of a Night” instrumental plays.
6. Jay Z can only move in place but so much—this is clearly a Beyoncé-centric exhibition. But their 50/50 power dynamic on stage is convincing. He spits verses while she posts up in the background. She dances suggestively, freely, in front of him or stands back as he raps his “Crazy In Love” verse. But their most intimate exchanges are pre-taped for those video clips. (Cue Black Cindy from Orange Is the New Black: “You ever think about Beyoncé and Jay Z fuckin’? ‘Cause I do. Like, more than I do myself, even. You think that’s weird?”)
7. The slow, creeping move toward the front of the stage that Beyoncé and her dancers do (which happens pre-“Yoncé” and a couple more times) >>>>>>
8. Hearing Chimamanda Adichie’s feminist speech from “Flawless” as the white words flash on a black screen, is one powerful moment. Sorry to the person next to me I elbowed.
9. Their outfits. Beyoncé obviously loves bodysuits and also loves showing how great her ass looks in them. Her self-titled visual album doubled as a celebration of her form. The OTR tour trumps that. The suggestive costumes are no more; her ass is out. She wears glitter, gold and lace, including a Victorian-style bodysuit with oversized sleeves. Jay Z keeps it simple, as the guy from Marcy who now can afford Rodarte jerseys and leather vests, but always paired with chalkboard-black Timberlands.
10. There are many non-Beyoncé and non-Jay Z rap songs incorporated into the set list. Jay Z does the “wipe me down” dance during “Dirt Off My Shoulders” (which he’s done before). A blip of Kanye’s “On Sight” plays during Hov’s “Drunk in Love” verse, Future’s “Move That Dope” makes a cameo, and so does the Nae Nae and the Schmurda Dance.
11. “If you came here tonight with your real friend and not your fake fuckin’ friend…” –Jay Z during “Clique”
12. Audio from an automated voice messaging system plays 13 missed voicemails, and we hear Beyonce leaving messages like, “I’m scared you’re gonna break my heart.” It’s another moment where you’re supposed to wonder how real it is. The best is: “Do you think I give a shit about how much money you have? I’m rich.”
13. Toward the end of the show as the Blue Ivy footage plays, Jay Z looks on from the second stage with a smile, embracing Beyoncé while she sings “Halo.” We see footage of their wedding and of Jay Z doing push-ups with Blue Ivy on his back. Then they attempt vice versa (but Blue Ivy can’t lift Jay Z lol!).
14. The “Ghost/Haunted” segment is when the tempo slows (sit-down time). We get eerie interpretive choreography from dancers in all-white. The “religious” set follows: “Holy Grail” and “No Church,” etc. It’s the least interactive part of the show.
15. Before performing “Love on Top,” Beyoncé, whose years are finally showing up on her face, sings “Resentment.” It’s her most dramatic and powerful vocal exhibition of the night. She’s sitting in a wedding dress on the second stage, preaching about letting go of hurt. The person next to me says: “Nobody wants to hear this song.” But somebody does—the guy two rows ahead who gets up and starts doing praise arms. As she finishes up her sermon from the Book of Beyoncé, he turns around and screams, “Hallelujah!” —Clover Hope (@clovito)
I might cry. I will cry. #OTR
— christine teigen (@chrissyteigen) July 12, 2014
‘03 Bonnie & Clyde
Crazy In Love
Show Me What You Got
Diamonds Are Forever
Just Wanna Love You
Girls (Run The World)
Jigga My Nigga
Dirt Off My Shoulders
Ring The Alarm
U Don’t Know
No Church In The Wild
Drunk In Love
Why Don’t You Love Me
If I Were A Boy
Love On Top
Niggas In Paris
Hard Knock Life
Part II (On The Run)
Photo Credit: Getty Images