A Night at the “On The Run” Tour: Reveling in The Supermoon That Is Beyoncé and Jay Z
There is nothing quite as excruciating, I have now learned, as being stuck in horrendous traffic while you can see, from the backseat window, a stadium in which Beyoncé is performing, and hear, through the crack in that window, the chorus of “Crazy in Love” reverberating over an ecstatic crowd.
Yes, despite leaving New York City at 7 p.m. (for a show beginning at 9 p.m.), my friend (and VF.com colleague) Kia and I were stuck in an Uber for nearly two and a half hours on the way to the MetLife Stadium, located in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Sweating profusely—due to the heat, and to the anxiety of potentially missing the beginning of a Beyoncé (!!!) concert, and to the fear of the rising rate of the Uber (thank goodness for that recent 20 percent discount!)—we tried to pass the time by discussing current events with our Uber driver (he had a lot to say about the Solange elevator incident) and watching our progress on Google Maps on our phones (the latter is not such a great way to alleviate stress in traffic, by the way!). About three miles away from the stadium, barely moving in our car, we watched three teenagers sprinting by us on the far side of the highway. They were, as Kia pointed out, literally “on the run” to see the “On The Run” tour.
We jumped out of our car about a quarter of a mile from the stadium, and sprinted ourselves, amongst a throng of fellow latecomers, across an overpass to the stadium. A jogging girl in front of us—sporting a tank top emblazoned with the word “FLAWLESS”—tripped and fell through an unmarked door. Her five friends huddled by the door, helping her up, and you could actually see the indecision on their faces: do we wait for our injured friend, or do we book it to Beyoncé?!?
We made it to our seats about 20 minutes into the show, and immediately forgot about our 150-minute master class in stress management in a (not so) moving vehicle. We were in the presence of Beyoncé, and it was impossible to think about anything else.
Beyoncé has come to stand for perfection in a way that no other celebrity of our time has. She demands hyperbole. I actually wrote in my iPhone, as she emerged to sing “Baby Boy,” “she is super human her body is made of a material not yet discovered by earthlings.” She is defended, at every turn, with militant fervor (asSaturday Night Live recently noted), and she manages to perform with alien vigor, precision, and enthusiasm while her hair magically remains perfectly intact throughout.
All of this makes watching her both completely exhilarating and also somewhat distancing. While there is something semi-religious about the experience of seeing her gyrate during “Partition” and stick out her tongue during “Haunted” when she sings about her “wicked tongue,” there is also something slightly diminished when you consider that she has almost definitely stuck her tongue out in exactly the same manner at exactly the same moment on every single night of this tour. At times, the quick-cutting videography made it feel more like you were watching a DVD of an amazing concert than actually watching an amazing concert. One of my favorite parts of the show was when a few strands of Beyoncé’s hair fell out of place during “Why Don’t You Love Me?” and you could see in her eyes that she desperately wanted to push it to the side, but couldn’t because it would mess up her choreography.
While you feel like Taylor Swift could be one of your friends at brunch, going on and on about a vaguely disappointing date, and Katy Perry is your friend who texts you a thousand emoji in lieu of a joke, and Miley Cyrus is your high school friend you haven’t talked to in a few years who you hear fell in with a mysterious new crew, Beyoncé is decidedly none of your friends.
If I haven’t discussed Jay Z for the first seven paragraphs, it’s probably because this is wholly Beyoncé’s show. The mere silhouette of Beyoncé before she would emerge had the crowd maniacally squealing and shrieking. A glance down any aisle in the stadium would reveal anywhere from three to seven “I woke up like this” t-shirts (many seemingly home-made). And while the crowd responded enthusiastically to Jay Z hits like “99 Problems” or “Hard Knock Life,” it was never more riled up than during “Drunk in Love” or “Single Ladies.” She sings Justin Timberlake’s part in “Holy Grail” with more grit and verve than ten Justin Timberlakes. And as she lip synced to one of Jay’s verses, Kia turned to me and said, “She’s the best rapper alive,” which seemed undoubtedly true, even though she wasn’t making any sound.
For the encore, Beyoncé and Jay crooned “Part II (On The Run)” together, before walking down a pathway to a separate stage in the midst of the crowd. As they worked their way through “Young Forever”—with “Halo” injected in the middle—home video clips of their wedding appeared on the Jumbotron, along with footage of Blue Ivy Carter playing in the grass and being fed. Considering the way in which these two protect Blue from the public eye, there was something quite powerful about their choice to share these images of their daughter, especially while they, her parents, belted the chorus of “Young Forever.” Would Blue ever quite be able to grasp the scale of her parents’ fame at this moment?, I wondered. I wished she could be in the stands, in her twenties, reveling in the uncanny supermoon that is Beyoncé and Jay Z.
Of course, this finale was as choreographed as anything else. “I love Blue,” I said to Kia, as the lights in the stadium turned up, which was both as true as anything I’ve ever said, and which also meant nothing. Waiting in line for the train home (neither of us was eager to get in another car), I opened my Uber app to see how much the ride out had set us back; the total was less than both of us had guessed, which was a relief, but also a bit anticlimactic.