On their own, Beyonce and Jay Z can sell out a concert from the onset, so when the two A-listers unite at the axis of R&B, pop, rap and hip-hop, it’s nothing short of an all out stadium-sized frenzy. Dubbed the “On The Run” outing, the married tag team of extraordinary entertainers took over Chicago’s giant Soldier Field (where H.O.V.A. played with Justin Timberlake last summer) for a collaboration-stacked, two-and-a-half-hour evening that unequivocally certified the co-headliners as music’s ultimate supercouple.
…the “On The Run” outing wasn’t only a spectacular merger of two superstars (who concurrently reinforced their love for one another), but also a benchmark for future double bills from any musical discipline.
Though this is the first time the two mounted a full trek together, their mutual history goes back over a decade, as demonstrated with an opening onslaught of “’03 Bonnie & Clyde” and “Crazy In Love,” backed by a live band that spent most of its time shadowed in the wings. From there, the night would find the partners alternating between duo and solo segments, allowing one to change clothes and recalibrate while the other captivated their mutually appreciative audience.
In place of an entourage, the 44-year-old Jay Z relied mostly on his ingenious rhymes that have essentially become the very fabric of modern hip-hop since he debuted nearly two decades ago. “Show Me What You Got,” “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” and “Big Pimpin'” were frill-free examples of his genre architecture, while the occasional highlight from 2013’s “Magna Carta Holy Grail” (like “Holy Grail” with Beyonce taking over for Timberlake) showed additional staying power.
Though she can certainly hold her own as a powerhouse vocalist, Beyonce, 32, naturally brought her usual spectacle, fleet of dancers and almost always a new outfit whenever the scene changed. “Run The World (Girls)” cheered on female empowerment, a clip of “Naughty Girl” found her rocking a buttless bodysuit, while “Baby Boy” brought it back to the old school (though she disappointingly didn’t dip back to her Destiny’s Child days or the individual “Irreplaceable”).
While the front half was certainly strong, the home stretch in the over 40 snippet/song event was absolutely unstoppable thanks to career-defining cuts like Jay’s “99 Problems,” “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” and “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem),” all alternated with Bey’s “If I Were A Boy,” “Love On Top” (the apex of a mid-venue secondary stage set) and “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It).” Though less familiar, the new “Pretty Hurts” (off Beyonce’s self-titled video album) offered an influential message about finding contentment and confidence in individuality, as opposed to striving for unattainable perfection.
After joining together for the tour’s soulful namesake “Part II (On The Run),” Jay returned the meaningful sentiment, framing “Young Forever” around the pair’s daughter Blue Ivy (who was shown repeatedly on the jumbotron as her mom angelically accompanied each chorus). Toss in Beyonce’s chilling “Halo” with a reprise of “Young Forever” that ended with a screen shot of the words “The Carters” carved in the sand, and the “On The Run” outing wasn’t only a spectacular merger of two superstars (who concurrently reinforced their love for one another), but also a benchmark for future double bills from any musical discipline.