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Erotica, glamour, swagger, street cred, and finally, a peek at marriage and family bliss all came together during Beyonce and Jay Z’s On the Run tour, which opened in Miami’s Sun Life Stadium last night. It was over two hours of tightly choreographed showmanship that was timed to the second, alternating between the pair’s solo history, their collaborative hits and by duet versions of hits both have originally recorded with others.
The sheer volume of material, coupled with the cinematic theme (more on that later) and Beyoncé’s jaw-dropping wardrobe changes made for a highly entertaining and impressive show that went from the glamorous to the profane.
But it was also a rather detached show. Yes, there was more than enough of Mr. and Mrs. Carter to satisfy the crowd here; those on the floor level, at least, never sat down and sang or rapped along to every single song, not missing even a beat of Jay’s raps. And these two enjoy the privilege of being some of the few acts that seem to appeal equally to male and female fans.
But despite the obvious adulation, the lines between performers and audience were very sharply delineated and both Jay and Beyoncé’s were careful to adhere to script and procedure every step of the way.
If there was no room for error, there wasn’t room either for spontaneity or audience interaction in this very finely tuned performance where one song bled seamlessly into the other, with brief musical interludes or snippets of film serving as transitions.
The idea was to create an atmosphere and tell a story.
On the Run, the tour, is inspired on the theme and aesthetic seen on the tour “film” trailer (with cameos by the likes of Sean Penn), which features the Carters in Bonnie and Clyde mode, firing semi automatics (although last night little signs of “not real guns” appeared constantly on screen) and executing multi-million dollar heists with attitude and high fashion sense.
The live show follows the same storyline of the couple on the run, kicking off with black and white scenes from the film, playing in a gigantic center screen flanked by two other giant screens that allowed the audience in the humongous Sun Life Center to view Jay and Beyonce up close and personal throughout.
Not surprisingly, given the film theme, the opening track was “03 Bonnie and Clyde.” But don’t expect that more down and dirty feel of the original 2002 Jay Z video featuring Beyonce. Everything about On the Run is amped-up and glammed-up, beginning with Beyonce, who looked fabulous in a mesh leotard with a mesh hoodie over her face, and backed by a jaw-dropping eight-dancer troupe.“03 Bonnie and Clyde” then cleverly segued into “Crazy In Love” (originally by Beyoncé feat. Jay Z from the same time period). Then, the subtlest of interludes sung by Beyoncé served to cede the stage to Jay Z with “Tom Ford.”
Alternating in the sparse, almost industrial-looking stage, Beyoncé and Jay Z proceeded to take us on a journey of fashion, high-level performance and music, always returning to the central theme of love—challenged, perhaps, but finally standing strong.
And it was all about the Carters. There were no guest acts and no visible band, save for a rare appearance here or there from an instrument or back-up singer. Jay Z managed to power through his arsenal of hits—from “Ni**as in Paris” to “Clique” to “99 Problems” and “It’s a Hard Knock Life”–forcefully and alone, without any props except the screen behind him. Beyoncé, meanwhile, made every one of her songs a visual experience, each featuring new outfits (what an impressive array of leotards and catsuits that woman has!) and choreography.
The high points, unsurprisingly, were the duets, particularly “Holy Grail” and the ending “Young Forever,” and songs like “Haunted,” where Beyoncé allowed herself to be alone onstage, truly showcasing not only her vocal prowess but her ability to connect as a singer and not just as a striking personality.
There were also stabs at feminism and female empowering messages, including brand new “Pretty Hurts,” which deals with society’s demands on the way women look and what women are willing to do to achieve those demands. But, given the way Beyoncé looks and her status as a sex symbol, this is a difficult message to get across in this particular setting.
It all built up to a grand finale which, surprisingly wasn’t all about guns and death as with the original Bonnie and Clyde, but love and family.
“We celebrate love tonight,” said Jay-Z as he embraced his wife onstage, squashing any of the tabloid notions of break-up that have circulated lately. Then, the couple sang the rousing “Young Forever” before turning their backs to the audience to sing at the screen, which showed images of family life centering on the newest addition, daughter “Blue Ivy,” who they serenaded with “Halo.”
Clearly the idea was to show the real Mr. and Mrs. Carter. But of course, we know that they aren’t like you or me.
‘03 Bonnie & Clyde?
Crazy in Love?
Show Me What You Got?
N***as” in Paris?
Run the World (Girls)
Jigga My N***a?
Dirt Off Your Shoulder
Ring the Alarm
On to the Next One?
No Church in the Wild?
Drunk in Love?
Public Service Announcement
Why Don’t You Love Me??
Beach Is Better?
If I Were a Boy?
Ex Factor (Lauryn Hill cover)?
U Don’t Know
Love on Top?
I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me)
Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)?
Hard Knock Life?(Ghetto Anthem)
Part II (On the Run)
Lift Off (Outro)
This article originally appeared on Billboard.com.
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