Beyoncé and Jay Z are not known for chasing a paparazzi spotlight. That brand of fetishist fame has been thrust upon them lately amidst rumors of infidelity, their own interpersonal relationship, and whatever it was that happened in that elevator. Whether or not the speculation on the state of their marriage is a publicity ploy for their On the Run tour is something you can guess just as well as I, but regardless, it adds a bit of drama to something that is more of a spectacular event than just a Tuesday night concert.
The theme was Bonnie and Clyde, like their duet of the same name, and the show introduced the two as The Queen and The Gangster in an opening video montage, on the run as outlaws, brandishing revolvers, rolling around in money and partying, all while avoiding the gaze of the law. “THIS IS NOT REAL LIFE” the screen flashed. And yeah, obviously it’s not, but there’s a parallel here—both duos are iconic American renegades hiding from watchful eyes, bound together to thrive or die.
But they’re up to the challenge. I believe Beyoncé is the closest thing to perfection, and in real life she is as carefully composed as she appears on Instagram. She didn’t even seem natural to me until ‘Run the World (Girls)’ when she threw off her cap and there was a faint crease above her brow from it. She didn’t have hat hair because come on, she’s Beyoncé, but at least we have proof she’s mortal. Even still, she strives to be better. After all, there’s a reason they call her Queen Bey. She can quote Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in a hazy sound bite defining a FEMINIST as “a person who believes in the social, economic and political equality of the sexes” and everyone nods and cheers, because, you know, BEYONCÉ. She’s effortlessly influential.
But as incredible as The Queen is, it’s also important to remember that Jay is one of the greatest rappers who has ever lived, not to mention the only person who will ever be able to pull off a shirt that reads “99 Problems”.
However, both of them needed a minute really show up. Behind all the the production, it took a little time before both Jay and Bey went full throttle. For Beyoncé it was on the high octane “Ring the Alarm”, swarmed by red and blue revolving strobes. For Jay, it was during his verse on Kanye’s ‘Clique’, rapping, “Your money too short, you can’t be talking to me / Yeah I’m talking LeBron, we balling, our family tree.” He also rapped a bit of “N**gas in Paris”, which leads me to wonder whether Outside Lands headliner Kanye might make an appearance tomorrow before his weekend in San Francisco. After all, he does love AT&T Park.
The show was a giant spectacle. And with all the celebrity-laden videos rolling between songs (which were arranged as a narrative documenting excess, temptation, and the reckless desperation that comes with being “Drunk in Love”), the couple could have rested on the cushion of their high production value. Sometimes they did, but the beauty of a live show is watching them show pure skill in unexpected moments, as when Beyoncé sang Justin Timberlake’s part in the intro to ‘Magna Carta Holy Grail’ (which features a little Nirvana segue, by the way), and later executed a flawless snip of Lauryn Hill’s “Ex-Factor” after “If I Were a Boy”.
But probably the biggest surprise came when Hov busted out with a verse accompanying “Blow The Whistle”, a hip hop track released by Oakland’s Too $hort. The audience lost it. “You crazy for this one, Frisco,” Jay said (which, by the way, is another thing that only Jay Z can do). It was a smart move—that camaraderie goes a long way with us in the Bay.
But there were sweeter moments too, particularly when the duo was wrapping up. Beyoncé donned a black and white American flag skirt, clutching Jay as together they watched the final montage, playing intimate family moments with Blue Ivy.
Do we have any more clues about the state of the Royal Carters? No, but that doesn’t seem all that important when you’re watching a couple that will be regarded among the greats alongside Elvis, Ella Fitzgerald and the Beatles by future generations. They reiterated that above all, they’re performers, and Bey means it when she sings, “Down to ride ’til the very end.”
Tickets are still available for tonight’s show at Ticketmaster.