They arrived in the center of a pair of sliding stage doors, he in dark shades and an American flag shirt, she in a black mesh mask and matching leotard unzipped to her navel.
From the first handful of songs, including “Crazy in Love” and “Show Me What You Got,” it was happily apparent that this would indeed be a joint arrangement.
Beyonce, stealth as a panther, filled the massive stage with her killer curves and smile, while Jay Z, the rare rapper who understands that articulation is key, filled in the blanks with his nimble flow.
For much of Tuesday's 2 ½-hour, 40-plus song set, the power couple dubbed many things – let’s go with BeyoncJay for now – enthralled a sold-out Georgia Dome crowd of 50,000-plus with a show that deftly combined theatrical pre-taped elements, spectacular lighting and an admirable overview of their two catalogs.
The pair named this 21-date stadium trek the “On the Run” tour and indeed ran with every detail supporting the faux-gangster theme, starting with the film noir video that opened the concert with “03 Bonnie & Clyde” and popping up throughout as segues and interludes.
But there were no obvious animosities or jealousies about star power here. Beyonce and Jay traded the spotlight seamlessly.
For all of the scrutiny of their marriage, the pair appears to genuinely like each other. It’s not the grand gestures of Jay nuzzling Bey’s neck and hugging her from behind or an obvious PDA such as their hand holding that is telling.
Rather, the little smiles they exchanged and mischievous looks Beyonce tossed toward her husband as they crisscrossed the stage best exemplified their partnership; for all of Beyonce’s fierceness on stage, she and Jay share a lighthearted rapport that feels authentic.
His sets leaned toward monochromatic backdrops to pair with his mix-and-match ensembles of black pants, leather jacket, baseball caps and knit hats as he glided through “Tom Ford” and “Dirt Off Your Shoulder.”
Hers favored fiery red, whether flaunting her message of feminism in “Flawless” and “Yonce” or bursting onto the stage like a military Charlie’s Angel in a beaded cat suit for “Ring the Alarm.”
While it was difficult to tell how much of the music was live and how much relied on backing tracks – musicians were seen only during Beyonce’s defiant “Why Don’t You Love Me” and “Resentment” – most of Beyonce’s songs included some variation of her powerful pipes. Really, her impressive vocal range was rivaled only by the seemingly illegal things she was doing with her hips.
Even though most of the men in the crowd appeared to be in attendance to support their swaggering hero, Jay Z, the majority had eyes firmly lasered on the two giant video screens flanking the stage whenever Beyonce’s considerable assets were on display.
A particularly revealing look at her backside accompanied a snippet of “Naughty Girl” (perhaps it’s just a new variation on a thong) and she spent much of the show giving fans plenty of opportunities to admire her muscular thighs. Even in her Stevie Nicks-worthy black lace, Beyonce turned the slow jam “Drunk in Love” – a song that has already landed in her canon of classics despite its lack of melody or hook – into a lesson in seduction.
Meanwhile, her climb-to-the-heavens rendition of “Love on Top” (with a little Jackson 5 “I Want You Back” snuck into the bassline), performed in a classy white pantsuit, was a highlight of the show because there was only one thing to pay attention to: her spectacular voice.
No doubt that Beyonce’s beauty and bionic body commanded the stage whether she was flinging her mane like an ‘80s metal god while Jay Z zipped through “Holy Grail” or simply strolling in a cleavage-baring black leather jumper for an electric guitar-marred “If I Were a Boy,” which was nicely paired with Lauryn Hill’s “Ex Factor.”
But Jay Z deserves a back slap for his ability to rule the stage as the only person in a very large space. He didn’t have the luxury of a dance crew or coolly robotic dance moves. Yet he held his own on the strength of his easy-going magnetism and his beloved loquacious raps, including “On to the Next One,” “Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)” and “99 Problems.”
“On the Run” is an epic show because Beyonce and Jay Z really have no equals.
As individuals, they’re impressive. But together, they’re unstoppable.
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