Watching Beyonce and Jay Z perform in Toronto for their On The Run tour, I had one clear thought. They may not “run the world”, but they are certainly running their own world and everyone that looks in on it. The private couple had everyone in the palm of their hand as they whipped through a 42-song, 2.5 hour showt that never lets you settle down. This was 2 top entertainers at their absolute best.
Opening the show together with “03 Bonnie & Clyde”, the couple kept with the criminal storyline throughout with their video interludes (using footage from the On The Run trailer that was released a few weeks before the tour began). They followed with 2 of their collaborations from Beyonce’s albums, “Upgrade U” and “Crazy In Love”, and then the rotation began. Jay Z brought us “Show Me What You Got”, “Diamonds From Sierra Leone” (shoutout of Kanye), “I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me)” (an old school Pharrell Williams production) and “Tom Ford”, before Beyonce returned for “Run The World”.
Jay Z presented a similar tradeoff structure to his Legends Of The Summer tour last year with Justin Timberlake, but this time around, the rotations were much shorter. Often Jay and Bey went 1-for-1 in their song rotation, which kept the energy high. My favourite transition was Jay sitting down in a chair in front of a mirror wrapping up a song, then the chair rotates to reveal Beyonce on the other side of the mirror launching into the next song. After about an hour, we were begging for a break just because the show was rolling at such a feverish speed. You don’t get one, but I’m really not complaining.
It also helped that Beyonce and Jay Z have equal stage presence in a big stadium. I love JT, but last summer going up against Jay Z, he struggled to hold 50,000 people’s attention when Jay Z can just flash a smile and lit up the room. Weird to say about a rapper, but it’s totally true.
Jay has his match in Beyonce though, who appropriately subbed for Justin on “Holy Grail”. With a flick of her wind-blown hair (where are all these wind machines?), Beyonce owned the room, reaching the climax with her Motown-esque “Why Don’t You Love Me?”. At one point, she stops singing and gives her signature badass, “cutting eyes” stare (of course, being very aware of where the camera is for the giant screens). After the audience just keeps screaming in approval, she eventually cracks a smile and then “breaks” into a full-out giggle. Defiant then cute…all in the course of 10 seconds. And that’s Beyonce for ya.
In the latter part of the concert, the storyline and setlist presented a “rough patch” in the onscreen criminals’ relationship with Jay Z singing “99 Problems” and Bey singing “Resentment”, her dismissive ballad of a lover who did her wrong, but then she went into her infectious “Love On Top”, complete with a mashup of Jackson 5‘s “I Want U Back”. Whew. Everything in the world is right again.
They ended the show with singing “Forever Young”, while real-life images of their 2008 wedding were shown onscreen. Then the real kicker? Beyonce went into “Halo”, and the two turned to face the screen as images of their daughter Blue Ivy played on-screen. If that wasn’t enough, Jay Z mouthed along to the words and smiled as he had his arm around his Mrs.
Hook, line, and sinker.
The couple keeps their personal life close to their chest (we’ll probably never know what that Solange attack on Jay Z in the elevator was about), so it means we hang on every little moment we see happen between them. A little smile, a whisper in the ear…the audience eats it up. The mystery of their relationship just adds to their appeal. These two know exactly what they are doing, and even if we are being manipulated, I’m more than happy to keep watching it all unfold when the talent is this good.
It was hard to keep track of every song…but here’s many of the songs that were covered:
’03 Bonnie & Clyde
Crazy in Love
Show Me What You Got
Diamonds from Sierra Leone (Remix)
I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me)
Run the World (Girls)
Jigga My N—a
Dirt Off Your Shoulder
On to the Next One
U Don’t Know
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
Love on Top
Niggas in Paris
Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)
Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)
Part II (On The Run)