Throw your phones in the air, wave them like you just don't care / credit: Arusa Qureshi
Two of the world's greatest entertainers unite for a suitably spectacular affair
The motif of the 'gangster and the queen' may be the 21st century version of the star-crossed lovers trope popularised in myth and literature, but Beyoncé and Jay-Z have written their own love story for the ages. Their latest tour as co-headliners combines Beyoncé's game-changing magnum opus Lemonade with Jay-Z's raw and confessional 4:44, to create something visually spectacular yet at the same time, profoundly intimate.
On the Run II is a declaration of loyalty but it's also a reminder of the tenderness of a marriage that has felt the pressures of betrayal, with the pair coming out on the other side to arrive in a space occupied by mutual adoration and respect. There is a clear narrative arc that weaves its way through the two-and-a-half hours that the power-couple are on stage, beginning with the pure devotion and lust of tracks like ''03 Bonnie & Clyde' and the first big crowd-pleaser of the night, 'Drunk in Love', traversing through the nuances of infidelity before landing firmly within the realm of reconciliation and true, unadulterated love. Theirs is a partnership that will stand the test of time, regardless of family feuds, marriage woes and the prying eyes of the public and their interplay on stage affirms this.
'Ladies, are we smart? Are we strong? Have we had enough?', Beyoncé demands during 'Sorry', in reference to the frustrations of women everywhere facing male inadequacy. There's the usual confident swagger of 'Flawless', 'Formation' and 'Run the World (Girls)' but the bitterness that emanates from Beyoncé's ever-impeccable solo sections adds an air of intensity to the overall portrait of the Carter family, reinforced only by Jay-Z's discernible remorse in the likes of 'Song Cry' and 'Family Feud'.
Though it would be impossible for Jay-Z to match the formidable force that is Beyoncé, he manages to hold his own during big numbers like '99 Problems', 'Big Pimpin'' and 'The Story of OJ', which turns out to be an unexpectedly brilliant segment of the night. But despite Beyoncé's unequivocal star-power, the finest moments of the show come when the Carters join forces for classics like 'Crazy in Love' and 'Deja Vu' or the touching finale of 'Perfect' and 'Young Forever', accompanied by live strings, horns and visuals of the family happy, together and in harmony.
This isn't Beychella but an entirely different beast; one that unites two masters of their craft, taking Beyoncé's now-legendary Coachella performance and adding heavy smatterings of Jay-Z's trademark stylistic dexterity and militant pragmatism. It's a formula that combines two behemoths of pop and hip hop respectively, two entertainers at the very top of their game and two individuals with the courage of their convictions. As Jay-Z asks in 'Family Feud', 'What's better than one billionaire?' If you still don't know the answer after On the Run II, you haven't been paying attention.