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Jay Z, Beyoncé's 'On the Run' tour stuns

Jay Z and Beyonce perform at MetLife Stadium

Jay Z and Beyonce perform at MetLife Stadium on July 11, 2014. Photo Credit: Parkwood Entertainment

The complicated explanation of what Beyoncé and Jay Z's "On the Run" tour is about involves esteem issues, drunk-dialing etiquette, feminist theory, art appreciation and a deep exploration of the roles of hip-hop and R&B superstars in popular culture.

The simple explanation? It was awesome.

And the power couple's first tour together, which filled MetLife Stadium Friday and Saturday night, works on both levels.

This is more than watching two of the world's biggest stars perform together on one of the world's biggest stages -- something Jay has done already with Eminem, Kanye West and Justin Timberlake. Something in the chemistry of both Jay and Bey changes when they perform together.

Beyoncé's impressive dance routines border on militaristic on "Run the World (Girls)" or even "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)," where there's no doubt who's in charge. But when she and Jay do "Drunk in Love" and she starts shaking her chest in his face or bends over in front of him during "Show Me What You Got," there's also no doubt that doesn't happen any other time on stage. It's even more unusual to see Jay look as tender as he does at the end of "Drunk in Love," kissing Beyoncé's neck in a warm embrace.

He snaps out of that quickly, though, plowing into "Public Service Announcement" with as much swagger as ever. After all, nearly everything in the "On the Run" tour moves quickly, with the couple rolling through 42 of their hits in the 2 1/2-hour show, as well as one notable cover of Lauryn Hill's "Ex Factor" that Beyoncé slayed.

Simply the performance of these songs was impressive enough. However, they really did try to put their music in a broader context, using film clips of a "Bonnie and Clyde"-type heist and various clues to get their message across.

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"THIS IS NOT REAL LIFE" read the big screen at the start of the show, with flashes of "NOT REAL" appearing over Beyoncé's face during film clips of her shooting at people. "THIS IS REAL LIFE" appeared during a mashup of "Halo" and "Young Forever," after a montage of clips that showed footage of the notoriously private couple's wedding, their matching tattoos and their daughter Blue Ivy's first steps.

It might seem like too tidy an ending to all the tumult that came before it. But in Jay and Bey's case, once you reach the top, isn't it time to stop running?


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