Beyoncé & JAY Z - On The Run II [Live Review]

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Beyoncé & JAY Z  London Stadium

(15/6/18)

What’s better than one billionaire… two! Jay Z and Beyonce take to London’s Olympic Stadium with a career spanning tour de force.

★★★★★

Jay Z loves a joint tour, back in 2011 he joined forces with Kanye for Watch The Throne before switching to Justin Timberlake in 2013 to become the aptly titled ‘Legends Of The Summer’ for a series of shows in which I witnessed a perfect merge of pop and hip-hop which I thought couldn’t be topped, until tonight of course.

‘On The Run II’ is a follow up to the first OTR tour dates performed back in 2014, where Mr and Mrs Carter finally upgraded from surprise appearances during each others sets to create a fully fledged production of there own, unfortunately for the duo it was set to the backdrop of divorce rumours and elevator fights. This saw cracks appear in the couples presumed rock-solid marriage, however, ever the business-minded individuals Jay Z and Beyonce have since turned the narrative on its head, each having released career-defining albums (Lemonade, 4:44) which have seemingly admitted marital troubles whilst yet still only disclosing the most minute of details to keep fans hooked. 

This has all led to the present day and On The Run II, a reunion tour of sorts (more literal in the sense of their vow renewal witnessed via pre-recorded clips during the show) that sets out to solidify their marriage and reclaim the couple's narrative. Of course, the backstage drama would have done nothing but increase fans hunger for tickets, especially with the production coming off the back of either artist's strongest material in decades. If you’re reading this review now though you have the knowledge of a then surprising joint album which seems to bring the story to a fitting close

The second instalment of On The Run is also the first one in which The Carters have toured the UK together and this review finds us at the first night of the couples weekend stay in the English capital of London, more specifically it’s Olympic Stadium, a fitting venue considering five years previously Jay and Justin were performing there joint set only mere metres away from its grounds.

Our seats were situated right towards the back of the stadium in a dedicated ‘cheap zone’, a mere £25 for a whole 3 hours entertainment from two of the biggest names in modern music has to be considered the biggest bargain in live music surely. Not to shift tickets but instead a clever tactic Jay Z has started to incorporate on new tours to tackle touts (recent US solo dates for Jay’s 4:44 tour were being sold for as little as $4). I’ve never felt more involved in such a large scale production however, the screen setup was easily (and confirmed online prior) the largest screens used in any concert I’ve ever seen. It was clear The Carters were going all out and interludes were even accompanied by a theatrical movie created by the pair to match the cinematic scope of the evening.

“This Is Real Life” flashed onto the screen, an almost audacious nod at the duo and their gig’s significance as the pair started to descend down an elevator out onto the stage, every detail is meticulously laid out so no doubt this feature was an ironic little nod to just the beginning of the concert but the lift fight with Beyonce’s sister Solange which started all this marital drama in the first place.

The main talking point of the evening can only be one thing, however, and its the performance itself. Each song and interlude was carefully crafted to tell the story of the pair, this gave the concert a narrative unlike anything I’ve seen before, it helps they have over 20 albums worth of songs to choose from between them. The energy was high from the very start, no doubt helped by a ferocious ‘Holy Grail’ in which Beyonce snarled her way through the opening lines “held my laundry in the street, dirty or clean”.

Whether you believe the story of a family at war, the chemistry between the pair is very real. From the subtle grinding during duets to Jay’s cheeky sneak peeks at Beyonce’s impressive figure, this felt very much like a couple on the same page. This meant when they performed together it was simply electric, especially early on when we were treated to classic duets ’03’ Bonnie & Clyde’ and ‘Drunk In Love’.

Throughout the rest of the nearly three-hour runtime, we were witness to a tale of two sides as Jay Z or Beyonce performed their own solo hits before the other half would effortlessly flow into the next track. This meant whichever superstar you were here for you were suitably pleased. Early on a thunderous combination of ‘Flawless/Feeling Myself’ sent the ladies wild before the entire stadium joined together in unison to roar as the first flute notes of Jay’s iconic ‘Big Pimpin’ echoed all around. 

It was a tactic that would continue to work all night, for each performer's favour. Each star using one another as a ‘hype man’, this led to another key moment of the evening when Beyonce took control of the night with self-proclaimed feminist anthems ‘Formation’ and ‘Run The World (Girls)’ which were intertwined with chants of “Suck my balls!”.

Despite Beyonce's fans making a much bigger impression during the night, as they embraced every track from their idol, screaming each song back to her. it was actually Jay Z, who got the loudest reaction when he burst into ‘Paris’ his Kanye collaboration which took over the world an astonishing seven years ago now. The feverous reaction so loud he even proceeded to play it twice.

It wasn’t all just about the hits though, many in fact didn’t even make an appearance. Beyonce didn’t need to bring out ‘Halo’ or ‘Single Ladies’ and the same for Jay who didn’t perform either of ‘Empire State’ or ‘IZZO’. It’s amazing to think that these two superstars now have too many tracks for a three-hour set, but it’s even crazier that none of the big hits absences was even felt. 

I was much more overjoyed by getting to witness rarities such as the beautiful ‘Song Cry’ which tonight really showcased Jay-Z's poetic lyrics, I’ve always felt that they don’t get the attention they deserve compared to the spotlight on his gangster persona. this was followed by a surprise performance of a stunning ‘Resentment’ from Beyonce which highlighted her beautiful and at times operatic vocals which were on stunning form for the evening.

When the pair reunited later on in the evening for the grand finale, you would have been hard to think of a way in which the concert could be elevated further. Cue ‘Family Feud’ in which The Carters took the crowd to church, Beyonce leading the choir with an incredulous series of “HI-YA!”’s with Jay Z leading the sermon. Never before has the lines “What’s better than one billionaire… two” sounded so surprisingly true. It may be an audacious boast but these two clearly work better together. 

The final 15 minutes was about pushing the message of unity whilst celebrating two of the most important careers in modern music and the result was astonishing. Borrowing from her Coachella set Beyonce utilised a backing band to elevate classic hit ‘Deja Vu’ as a female guitarist shredded away whilst a cacophony of horns signalled the pairs return to the stage. This was swiftly followed by a medley of ‘Crazy In Love’ and ‘Show Me What You Got’ which saw the entire stadium dancing on their feet, One small separation was to occur as each artist got a final bow with some of their most powerful tracks ‘Freedom’ and ‘U Don’t Know’.

Wearing small green hearts in tribute to the Grenfell disaster, the duo completed the night with an emotional rendition of ‘Forever Young’ and as Beyonce hit that final stellar note the pair turned to each other and completed their performance with a kiss. A defiant message signifying that the most powerful couple in Pop have overcome their struggles, staged or not, tonight was proof that music just would not be the same without The Carters.

 

Setlist:

1. "Magna Carta Holy Grail" - Beyoncé & JAY-Z
2. "Part II (On The Run)" - Beyoncé & JAY-Z
3. "‘03 Bonnie & Clyde" - Beyoncé & JAY-Z
4. "Drunk in Love" - Beyoncé & JAY-Z
5. "Clique"/"Diva" - Beyoncé & JAY-Z
6. “Dirt Off Your Shoulder" - JAY-Z
7. “On To The Next One" - JAY-Z
8. “Fuckwithmeyouknowigotit" - JAY-Z
9. "Flawless (Remix)/Feeling Myself - Beyoncé
10. "Naughty Girl" - Beyoncé
11. "Big Pimpin'" - JAY-Z
12. "Run This Town" - JAY-Z
13. "Baby Boy”/“Mi Gente (Remix)”/“You Don't Love Me (No, No, No)" - Beyoncé
14. "Bam" - JAY-Z
15. "Hold Up"/"Countdown" - Beyoncé
16. "Sorry/Me, Myself and I" - Beyoncé
17. "99 Problems" - JAY-Z
18. "Ring The Alarm/Don’t Hurt Yourself" - Beyoncé
19. "I Care" - Beyoncé
20. “4:44" - JAY-Z
21. "Song Cry" - JAY-Z
22. "Resentment" - Beyoncé
23. "Family Feud" - Beyoncé & JAY-Z
24. "Upgrade U" - Beyoncé & JAY-Z
25. "N----s in Paris" - JAY-Z
26. "Beach is Better" - JAY-Z
27. "Formation" - Beyoncé
28. "Run the World (Girls)" - Beyoncé
29. "Public Service Announcement" - JAY-Z
30. "The Story of O.J." - JAY-Z
31. "Deja Vu" - Beyoncé & JAY-Z
32. "Show Me What You Got" - JAY-Z
33. "Crazy In Love" - Beyoncé & JAY-Z
34. "Freedom" - Beyoncé
35. "U Don’t Know" - JAY-Z
36. "Perfect" (Ed Sheeran cover) - Beyoncé
37. "Young Forever" - Beyoncé & JAY-Z