Beyoncé Jay Z team to make a fabulous Fifth

Posted: July 08, 2014

There was a giant concert in Philadelphia on Friday, with half a million people on the Ben Franklin Parkway to see the Roots serve as house band for a star-studded slate of acts.

The next night, the big guns came out. Literally and figuratively - on Saturday, Beyoncé and Jay Z brought their overstuffed 21/2-hour "On The Run" tour to sold-out Citizens Bank Park.

The most prominent power couple in music - she's in the top spot of the Forbes Celebrity 100, he's No. 6 - put on a 44-song hip-hop and pop action-packed extravaganza. It featured high fashion, home movies, and a lot of hits, not to mention a pistol-packing faux French nouvelle vague film that cast the duo as outlaws and descended into a Tarantino-esque shoot-'em-up as it filled up costume-change interstitial space.

The show, which began with " '03 Bonnie and Clyde" - she in fishnet ski mask, he in black leather and shades - even came with a disclaimer. "This Is Not Real Life," declared the big-screen backdrop, as the probably 70 percent female audience - more Girls Night Out than Date Night - filled the seats on a breezy summer evening.

That warning was likely intended to ward off criticism that the film irresponsibly glamorizes violence - the words "This is not a gun" also appeared when super cool-looking Jay or Bey was pointing a six-shooter in the Melina Matsoukas-directed movie.

But the words also served as a reminder that musical drama is not meant to be taken as autobiography. Particularly the hints at marital strife, such as his "Song Cry" and her "Resentment," which she sang while wearing a white wedding veil, seated on a stage in the middle of the crowd. It included the fiercely sung, recently added lyric: "She ain't even half of me / That b- will never be me."

You got that right. Whomever Beyoncé was referring to, the assertion that no competitors can measure up was reasserted throughout the show, in which wife and husband often performed together, and alternated two song sets of their own.

She was perfectly fab on her own - the vocal showcase "Haunted," the feminist one-two punch of "Run The World (Girls)" and "Flawless," the latter including a sample of a 2013 TED talk by Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

But in this setting, Queen Bey was like butter, or bacon: Everything was better with Beyoncé on it. As she put it in "Yonce," from her celebrated 2013 self-titled album, "I sneezed on the beat, and the beat got sicker."

That was best demonstrated on the songs in which she stood in for a male vocalist heard on the original. On the sentimental palliative "Young Forever," she replaced the wan Mr Hudson in an encore accompanied by clips of the happy couple with daughter Blue Ivy. The big screen now told us: "This Is Real Life."

Better still was "Holy Grail," Jay Z's hit with Justin Timberlake, with whom he played the South Philadelphia ballpark last summer. Timberlake's lines about a tortured relationship with fame ("One day you're screaming you love me loud, the next day you're so cold") were theatrically transformed into a wife standing toe to toe with her husband, sharing a piece of her mind.

Of course, it wasn't just the Beyoncé Show. Jay Z is a supremely confident and highly polished performer capable of holding in rapt attention a stadium full of fans who know his every rhyme by heart. And he did, repeatedly, alone on stage backed by a live band hidden from view on a succession of classics. "Big Pimpin'," "99 Problems," "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)," "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)" - the rap-along hits just kept coming.

Assorted quibbles: The film grew more aimless as the evening wore on. Didn't Kanye and Kim already motorcycle-ride through the desert in the "Bound 2" video? And for all the mileage the couple get out of their branded image as a musical and business alliance in a grown up, erotically charged marriage - "Drunk in Love" as they put it, in the recent hit that fizzled Saturday - there were few moments of human interaction between the stars or with the audience.

Otherwise, a highly entertaining, excitingly staged knockout of a show.


ddeluca@phillynews.com

215-854-5628

@delucadan

www.inquirer.com/inthemix

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