With their “Everything Is Love” album, Beyonce and Jay-Z capped off a story of their relationship that started with the former’s righteous marital anger on “Lemonade” — or, if you take the tabloids’ contribution into account, one that started with a rather infamous elevator fight. Over three albums, Beyonce had a catharsis, Jay-Z admitted to wrongdoing and begged for forgiveness, and the two seemingly reconciled, allowing their marriage (and their careers) to move forward.
And even if all of that was just to lead up to the “On the Run II” tour, it was worth it. In the couple’s second tour together, which stopped at Los Angeles’ massive Rose Bowl Saturday night, there was one recurring theme: “endless love,” as projected on a giant screen behind the stage. Beyonce and Jay-Z have been through the wringer and they’re here to stay — or at least, that was the message from the mega-show at the 55,000-person venue this weekend.
When Beyonce and Jay-Z take the stage together, hand-in-hand after openers Chloe x Halle and DJ Khaled, it’s magnetic. Clad in all white, descending from the ceiling, they take a moment to gaze over the crowd before launching into a heart-pounding version of “Magna Carter Holy Grail.” From there, the two-and-a-half hour show is non-stop. If you didn’t go to the bathroom or grab drinks before then, good luck finding an opening. When music’s biggest power couple stops for a stadium tour, there’s hardly a dull moment.
And, maybe to the chagrin of the mostly female audience, this isn’t the Beyonce Show feat. Jay-Z — it is truly a co-headlining tour. In telling the sometimes rocky story of their marriage, the couple plays off each other’s differences, rather than try to diminish them. Beyonce, on one hand, is precise. When she leads her crew of perfectly picked dancers, matching their every beat and hitting every “Flawless” note on hits ranging from “Naughty Girl” to “Sorry,” it’s hypnotizing. Her work ethic is Herculean, and it’s almost easy to see every painstaking rehearsal as Beyonce gives it her all in front of tens of thousands of fans.
Jay-Z, meanwhile, comes across, as he usually does, less rehearsed. He’s casual and makes his solo bits look easy. Make no mistake, it’s not a bug, but the feature. While Beyonce leads a gaggle of dancers and a giant production, Jay-Z, as Beyonce presumably changes costumes backstage, frequently took the stage alone when he performed songs like “On to the Next One” and “F—WithMeYouKnowIGotIt.” All Beyonce has to do to get a rise from the crowd is stand in the center of the stage and smile, but when Jay-Z interacts with them, prompting the audience at one point to hop in unison, it seems conversational and natural.
On that note, the couple makes a big attempt to drive one point home: this really is them. At the beginning of the show, the message “This is real life” blares on the screen. At the end, they wrap it up with the message “This is real love.” And even if it’s all for show, it seems genuine. On “’03 Bonnie and Clyde,” near the top of the show, they really do act like partners in crime. Later, when they perform 2003 hit “Crazy in Love,” it’s electrifying.
While they play well together on stage, the most truly powerful moments tend to be when they narrate the issues of their marriages separately. Amid the hits and pyrotechnics, one of the most striking moments of the entire concert is when Beyonce, dressed in an elegant beige feathered dress, sits down in front of the audience to perform her 2006 version of “Resentment.” It’s a blistering reconciliation with the emotional carnage of being cheated on, and when Beyonce performed it on recent tours, it had a different resonance, like the pop star was working through her struggles with her husband in gut-wrenching fashion onstage. But when she performs it Saturday night, on the couple’s victory lap, it’s still passionate, but less mournful. Rather than working through it herself, she dedicates the song to anyone who’s been “lied to” or “had [their] heart broken,” helping them to make it through like she did.
As he did on “4:44,” Jay-Z, too, opens up his heart — and tries to atone for his marital sins. When he performs “Song Cry,” an honest meditation on all the ways he’s done his wife wrong, he does so passionately, highlighted by the cellphone-lights raised by the audience. It almost manages to stand out as much as hits like “99 Problems” and “N—-a in Paris” for its rawness.
That’s to say nothing of the sheer production that “OTRII” is. The tour is a true feast for the senses. The stage is made up of a platform, in front of two huge screens and a wall of live musicians and dancers, that leads up to two parallel runways that get plenty of use throughout the evening. In the second half of the show, the main platform actually rises from its post and moves along the runways, making it seem as though Beyonce and Jay-Z are actually floating toward the audience. If it were anyone else, it might seem over-the-top. But for a couple as big as the Carters, it seems just about right.
They end the show, as they did on “Everything Is Love,” by celebrating their romance. Together, they sing a triumphant “Young Forever,” and Beyonce serenades Jay-Z with “Perfect,” her hit duet with Ed Sheeran. As she does, they really do seem to ignore the crowd and stare lovingly into each others’ eyes as they declare the strength of the relationship through music. And, to the cynic, maybe this fairytale is all for show. But when, after “Perfect,” Jay-Z smiles and takes a step back, lowering his hands as sort of a “bow down” gesture, it’s easy to believe him.
We get it, Jay. Being worthy of Beyonce is no small task.