All hail the King and Queen of my pop culture kingdom! The King of New York and Queen Bey’s On The Run (#OTR) tour blasted through Toronto’s Rogers Centre on July 9th. Disclaimer to all readers – I’m a huge fan of both of these artists – I went to the show to have a great time… and I did. Bias is expected.
Jay Z is no stranger to co-headlining tours – having collaborated with Kanye West and Justin Timberlake on the Watch The Throne and Legends of Summer Tours, respectively. The thing that set this tour apart was that Mr. and Mrs. Carter would be touring TOGETHER! Rejoice!
From record sales to sold out concerts – the show was a true testament to the astronomical success of this power couple, and their collective spectacle of chart topping hits.
The concept of the tour is centred around this trailer, in which Jay and Beyoncé play a Bonnie and Clyde-esque couple on the run from the law:
The show opens with the words “THIS IS NOT REAL LIFE” emblazoned on a dark screen. The screen parts to reveal none other than Jay Z and Beyoncé, strutting out to ’03 Bonnie & Clyde.
If it weren’t for the disclaimer before the show, I definitely wouldn’t believe this to be real life. Jay and Bey’s on stage chemistry is still fantastic – they’re clearly having a lot of fun on this tour.
Following up on the tour trailer, the show featured short video segments played between acts on jumbo screens, showing Bey and Jay on the run. The sets changed from Jay and Bey’s collaborative hits (Upgrade U, Crazy In Love (for which the crowd went appropriately crazy), to individual sections, and featured spots on eachothers’ songs. While the transitions weren’t always clean, some moments, like blending Beyoncé’s Countdown into Jay’s 99 Problems were roof shaking and crowd pleasing pinnacles.
The performances were stunning. Beyoncé is FLAWLESS on stage – refined, commanding and an absolute QUEEN. She’s the total package on stage – singing, dancing and rocking a fierce wardrobe. Praise Bey… and her fabulous tour wardrobe – edgy, glamorous and sexy – (Versace Atelier!!) fitting of a DIVA! Her voice is unbelievably strong and album quality perfect – stunning the crowd with Run The World (Girls), Why Don’t You Love Me, Single Ladies, Love On Top (a personal favourite), and an exquisite cover of Lauryn Hill’s Ex-Factor. She held the audience in the palm of her hand – and of course she did… she’s Queen Bey.
Without any backup dancers or band, Jay Z STILL managed to dominate his sets. He’s a magnetic performer, thoroughly engaging and solid. Jigga covered career spanning hits like Tom Ford, Dirt off Your Shoulder, F—kwithmeyouknowigotit, Big Pimpin, I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me) and On To The Next One. Jay even managed to sneak in some Kanye-collaborated jams including Diamonds From Sierra Leone, N—-s In Paris (for which the audience covered Ye’s lyrics), and Clique…to name a few. The entire 40,000+ audience was throwing their Diamonds In the Sky! Not to be outdone, Jay Z’s wardrobe was slick and savvy cool – somebody get me that Rodarte jersey.
While they were phenomenal in their individual sets – the dynamic duo were electric when on stage together. Drunk In Love, Holy Grail (with Beyoncé covering for JT), Partition (complete with revolving partition) and Part II On The Run were just a few of the instances of Bey and Jay glory on stage.
The 44 song set-list was a culmination of two incredible separate careers and the astounding success of two pop culture icons. Jay and Bey are pop culture royalty, and their dirty laundry is often aired in public view – OTR played on rumours, trials and triumphs of the couple’s complicated and scrutinized relationship. The “This Is Not Real Life” portion of the show had all the swagger, scandal and success of the high profile couple – including Jay Z’s Song Cry and completed with Beyoncé’s lyrical change in Resentment. The show seemed like a “he said/she said” take on their relationship – fitting with the themes of imperfection and acceptance in Beyoncé’s new album.
The few issues I had with the show were small in comparison to the onslaught of talent brought out by Jay and Bey’s performances. The film segments, while beautifully filmed, seemed to drag at later parts of the show. I was a little disappointed in the fact that Beyoncé didn’t add XO to her set list (it’s a song made to be belted out at stadiums!) and that Jay Z didn’t do Encore (if HOVA had asked “Do ya want more?!”…I would have undoubtedly said yes). The stage set up wasn’t very creative (but alas, I’ve been spoiled by Lady Gaga and Kanye West sets). And finally, the placement of some of their slow jams, including Haunted and If I Were A Boy (while they were performed spectacularly) really slackened the pace of the show.
In the final stage of the concert, the words “Forgiveness is the final act of love” appeared on screen – followed by deeply personal home videos of Blue Ivy, Jay Z and Beyoncé’s wedding, and family vacations – culminating in the statement “THIS IS REAL LIFE” – a truly rare move for this notoriously private couple.
Beyoncé beautifully performed Halo to images of her family, as Jay held her hand and lip synched the words with her. The way they look at each other…*melts*. It was a staged, yet lovely and improbably personal ending to a show that celebrates the commercial music and the personal collaboration of a juggernaut pair in the public eye.
All Hail The King of New York and Queen Bey!
Tour Set List
’03 Bonnie & Clyde
Crazy in Love
Show Me What You Got
Diamonds from Sierra Leone
I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me)
Run the World (Girls)
Jigga My N—a
Dirt Off Your Shoulder
Ring The Alarm
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
Ex Factor (Lauryn Hill cover)
Love on Top
N—-s In Paris
Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)
Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)
Part II (On the Run)
Lift Off (instrumental)