Beyoncé + JAY-Z = “On the Run II” tour was epic as expected

Brianna A. Smith is in concert-mode for On the Run II. (Photo: Chris Xantana)

PASADENA, Calif. – Jay-Z and Beyoncé’s On the Run II Tour – a Mr. and Mrs. affair primed to show off the power of two, rather than the transcendent talent of one or the other – landed at Rose Bowl Stadium in Pasadena, Calif. last Sunday night (Sept. 23).

On the Run II was a never dull, two-and-a-half hour spectacle, featuring an enormous stage set, a ton of imposingly athletic dancers and a floating platform that transported the pair down the length of the venue.

“I’m so glad to be onstage with the one I love,” Beyoncé  beamed as Jay-Z looked on affectionately and hailed his “queen” before “This. Is. Real. Love” seared across those big screens.

Widely regarded as one of the biggest concert tours this year, hip-hop’s power couple kicked off the tour with an overseas run, beginning at Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. An extended U.S. stretch included a stop at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville last month.

Sunday’s concert was the second of two at the Rose Bowl and one of the last six remaining before On the Run II wraps up at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. I was primed and seriously ready to take it in for The New Tri-State Defender.

As with the original On the Run Tour in 2014, the stars have retooled their music catalogues to work seamlessly. Since they last toured together, Jay-Z and Beyoncé have had a set of twins, renewed their marital vows, celebrated 10 years together and individually released their most deeply personal albums yet, Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” (2016) and Jay-Z’s “4:44” (2017).

The show kicked off with sister R&B duo Chloe x Halle, who opened the show with a quick 20-minute set. The real-life sisters, who signed on to Beyoncé’s label, made cameo appearances in the visuals for “Lemonade” and opened for the Queen B’s Formation World Tour in 2016. Their style is similar to Beyoncé’s in the way they adapt their vocals to multiple styles of music. Mostly sticking to a contemporary R&B vibe, they also pulled out some rap flows, with one of the sisters often playing guitar while singing.

DJ Khaled picked up from there, spinning some diversified hits. He played songs by The Notorious B.I.G., Rihanna, Future, Justin Bieber and a few by Drake. He brought out rap artists Tyga, YG, Fat Joe and DJ Mustard, alongside songstress Ella Mai and R&B singer Tank. The set closed with “All I Do Is Win.”

After a short break, Jay-Z and Beyoncé – aka The Carters – took the stage. The energy never died and their confidence never wavered, with the couple tag-teaming the stage as they  duetted and soloed through two decades of hip-hop and R&B.

While they’ve collaborated on a handful of songs over the years, their latest project, “Everything Is Love,” marks the first time they’ve officially teamed up as a duo for an entire album, simply being named “The Carters.”

Jay-Z and Beyoncé probed vulnerability on their solo releases. Their new album together has them letting off steam in a celebration of excellence, showing fans that everything is love between them. They performed “Nice,” “Black Effect” and “Apes**t” from the album. Powered by the hype, along with its upbeat summer vibes, it is one of the biggest albums of 2018.

Beyoncé’s set was full of phenomenal singing and choreography (most notable on “Formation” and “Run the World (Girls)”). However, Jay-Z, surprisingly, topped her in outfit changes (including a bulletproof vest for “99 Problems”) while working the crowd just as hard.

His bare-knuckled grittiness on “MessWithMeYouKnowIGotIt” and “Show Me What You Got” won over any doubters in the audience. Still, the best moments undoubtedly came when the two were onstage together.

The couple performed “03’ Bonnie & Clyde” as it followed a very public kiss as they performed “Part II (On the Run).” A segue from “Naughty Girl” to “Big Pimpin” rolled things back to the days before the two were married; then came performances of “Crazy in Love,” “Upgrade U” and “Drunk In Love.”

For two performers whose stage presence differ so significantly, Jay and Bey share the stage with a natural rapport.

Overall, the show was epic – as expected. They carved out a well-executed set list that took you through the story of their relationship, starting with happiness, then fighting through issues, anger and sadness, and coming out triumphant with each other.

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A musical testament that ‘Everything Is Love’

I attended the On the Run II concert as a fan. However, I knew going into the concert that my passion for music and writing would lead me to a column. I attended the concert with my boyfriend and we both enjoyed ourselves thoroughly.

I’ve practically grown up witnessing Beyoncé grow into womanhood. My respect and love for her has always been very high.

As a lover of music I also respect Jay-Z’s catalogue and lyricism. So, to have them perform together was electrifying. This wasn’t the Beyoncé show featuring Jay-Z; it was truly a co-headlining tour.

For much of the show, which played out like an epic suite, quickly making its way through more than 40 songs, the power couple expressed through music the wreckage that redefined their relationship and their individual personalities.

There were plenty of moments – from Jay-Z’s “99 Problems” to Beyoncé’s “Run the World (Girls)” and “Formation” – that felt more like a celebration of their individual legacies. Yet, the spotlight kept returning to the love that has kept them together. “Everything is Love,” their recent release as The Carters, was a musical backdrop for that theme.

True, grown-up commitment – not the romance of a fairy tale – is what Beyoncé and Jay-Z celebrated Sunday night through music, dance and affection during a phenomenal show.