On July 12th I had the tremendous privilege of seeing Jay-Z and Beyoncé at Metlife Stadium, one of the many stops on their “On the Run” tour where the reigning married couple is slowly executing their nefarious plot to sling-shot all the haters to the left where they belong.

The show is a multisensory spectacle. As is typical of the couple’s style, it’s evident that no expense was spared. From pyrotechnics to what basically amounted to a feature-length art film flashing intermittently on the huge screens across the stage, the experience was imposing in the best kind of way. Kicking off with a musical mosaic of their earlier hits (“Crazy in Love,” “’03 Bonnie and Clyde,” and the like), it spiralled quickly into a fiercely fun chronicle of their musical adventures together, paralleling the personal life Jay-Z and Beyonce were so secretive about until only (comparatively) recently. It was a creative venture littered with the well-deserved narcissism everyone has come to expect from this pair, but it was expertly produced and flowed wonderfully, with a brilliant selection of songs from their extensive respective catalogues.

When comparing the two side by side, the contrasting Jay-Z and Beyoncé balance each other out unexpectedly. Jay-Z seemed considerably more casual, more conversant with this enormous crowd and armed with that signature swagger we’ve all come to love so much. Beyoncé had the precision and focus of an Olympic gymnast, cracking well-rehearsed smiles as she rocked her designer leotards so hard she probably melted the faces off of the first few rows of adoring fans.
What they did have in spades was passion. It was evident how much they love being onstage throughout the entire performance. Jay-Z seemed overjoyed to be there and Beyoncé, absorbing the adoration of the crowd, seemed to loosen up at the closing song, “Halo,” which featured a montage of home video of the couple’s daughter and presumptive heir to their throne, Blue Ivy. After a long (close to two and a half hours) concert covering everything from heartbreak to hustling, the sentimental “Halo,” given new meaning with the introduction of Blue Ivy, brought in a humbling element that made for a fantastic finish.

Before you think that I’ve been fully brainwashed by the king and queen of the Illuminati (eyeroll), there were some lesser points to the show. It drove me crazy that very few of the songs were ever completed all the way through. In putting together the narrative to go with the art film/film noir visuals threaded through the entire show, they compromised the thing that made them famous: music. It was an entertaining show, but frankly, if you’re not going to run “I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me)” all the way through, you’re pretty much trampling on the tatters that used to be my heart. My friend postulated that this might be because hip-hop is a freestyle art – running through the entire song is unconventional (I’ve never seen hip-hop live, so this was an entirely new experience for me). That said, I would have loved to hear Jay freestyle new rhymes over old tracks, but given the strictly paced, to-the-minute precision of this performance, I don’t think he had enough wiggle room to give it a real try.

Secondly, Beyoncé’s performance seemed a bit wooden. It was absolutely fantastic – she really is a great performer – but it was all very precise and planned almost to the minute. This is funny considering the show began an hour and a half late. However, while Jay knew how to get the crowd moving, Beyoncé knew how to get the crowd singing and moving. If you’ve never seen an arena full of people of all ages get down to “Drunk in Love,” you’re missing out.

Speaking of the Illuminati set, those conspiracy theorists who think that everyone and their mother is in this secretive organization are probably going to have a field day with this tour. There is imagery of money, violence, religion and world domination – oh, not to mention the fact that at the start of the show Beyoncé and Jay-Z walk out of a cross to meet the audience. I’m sure those concepts make up a triangle somewhere. Obviously.

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