[Concert Review] A flawless, intimate performance for Bey and Jay

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When the king and queen of pop culture take the stage together, the results are flawless. Beyonce and Jay-Z rocked out a crowd of nearly 60,000 with a set list of some 45 songs that lasted around 2.5 hours at Soldier Field Thursday night. More than a concert, the “On The Run” tour was entertainment. Beyonce’s windblown hair, bedazzled costumes and spiky heels only added to the glamour of the evening as she and her husband performed duets (for lack of a better word) of the rap and R&B nature.

They kicked it off with “Bonnie and Clyde” at around 9:30 p.m. Expert mixing wove in “Upgrade U” and then “Crazy in Love.” The songs weren’t performed in their entireties. It was more like Beyonce and Jay gave the best snippets of their hits in an effort to keep things moving and to keep the crowd guessing. That treatment worked, allowing the power couple to breeze through 10 more hits (“Show me what you got,” “Diamonds from Sierra Leone” and “Tom Ford,” to name just a few) which increasingly revved up the crowd and even caused the metal beams of the top tiers of the football stadium seating to sway.

The couple worked the overwhelmingly diverse crowd into a frenzy. After a furious and tightly danced routine, Beyonce often would do nothing more than stand still – booty cocked out – and raise an eyebrow to illicit screams. And Jay had only to shout out the South Side to coax out a crowd roar that needed no meter to measure.

Beyonce’s dancers, (including captain Ashley Everett, who blazed bright with her shock of red hair) were as much the show as Queen Bey. They slithered. They jacked. They stepped. They profiled. They “danced hard,” as some might say on the South Side. Jay, as usual, had no dancers (except for two short transitions between songs.) On those rare occasions, he “borrowed” Bey’s ladies and two gents (the fabulous brothers who ought to be called the Wonder Twins, with their capoeira-graceful moves.)

Was it the Beyonce show featuring Jay-Z? Or was it the Jay-Z show featuring Beyonce? I’d argue that Jay-Z was the act who came on between Bey’s songs so that she could change clothes. Then again, mid-concert, it seemed the reverse was true. The couple, who are dealing with rumors of divorce, seemed to present an open book with their home movie-centric interludes shown over two to three big screens. But Bey’s rendition of the infidelity-swirled “Resentment” slowed things all the way down. As she has in other performances in the On The Run tour, she changed the words of the song to reflect the dalliances of a man she’d known for 12 years – which sounds amazingly like Jay and was sung so sadly that people began to cry.

Beyonce surprised with eloquent sound production, and interesting dual-location staging, that added new life to old hits. “Bow Down/I Been On,” already a banger, seemed even more… heartfelt when laced with extra guitar licks from the all-lady band. Then “Flawless” was well, flawless, and then Jay stepped in with “On To the Next One,” which is still the best you-don’t-matter-but-I-do song I’ve ever heard. Despite the cavernous size of the venue, Jay’s words clearly rang through the 55-degree air. I’ve been to Bears games and could barely understand whatever is said on the loudspeakers, so Jay’s extraordinary vocal clarity was astounding given the sheer size of the space and the noise of the crowd.

This was a tightly scripted concert which didn’t much deviate from performances held in other cities. Beyonce only occasionally shouted out the Chi. Jay did much better, frequently asking the city to raise their hands, or throw up a diamond or finish a verse. He even quipped: “You know I had to slow it down for all the weed smokers tonight,” he said.”Yeah, I smell it.”

Other standouts include “Partition” which had people running back from the bathroom (the concert, frankly, had gotten slow just before this point) to see Beyonce spin on a stripper pole in her boudoir outfit and slink sexily around a chair, even performing some moves usually seen on the Las Vegas strip. Jay got no parts of that though. In fact, though the storyline of the concert was about the couple, complete with home movies, Mr. and Mrs. Carter first openly touched – awkwardly – at the finish of “Drunk in Love,” which was midway through the show. They exchanged more affection near the end, after a sweetly-sad rendition of “Young Forever.” Sweet because the music stopped and the crowd chimed in to finish the song. Sad because some 60,000 people, mostly under 35, were singing about living forever. And we all know know that can’t be, and yet in that moment, under the spell of Beyonce’s flowing hair and her powerful voice, and listening to the empowering wordsmithing of Jay, it does seem that anything is possible.

Set List

03 Bonnie & Clyde

Upgrade U

Crazy in Love

Show Me What You Got

Diamonds from Sierra Leone

I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me)

Tom Ford

Run the World (Girls)

Flawless

Yoncé

Jigga My Nigga

Dirt Off Your Shoulder

Naughty Girl

Big Pimpin’

Ring the Alarm

On to the Next One

Clique

Diva

Baby Boy

U Don’t Know

Ghost

Haunted

No Church in the Wild

Drunk in Love

Public Service Announcement

Why Don’t You Love Me

Holy Grail

Fuckwithmeyouknowigotit

Beach is Better

Partition

99 Problems

If I Were a Boy

Ex-Factor

Song Cry

Resentment

Love on Top

Izzo (H.O.V.A.)

Niggas in Paris

Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)

Hard Knock Life

Pretty Hurts

Part II (On the Run)

Young Forever

Halo

Lift Off

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— Adrienne Samuels Gibbs

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