By Mesfin Fekadu, AP
PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania–For all of Beyonce and Jay Z’s up-tempo joint hits — the irresistible and catchy “Crazy In Love,” the swagger anthem “Upgrade U” and the beat-driven “Drunk In Love” — it was the performers’ emotional solo material that made their presence as a collaborative duo strong and resilient during their On the Run tour.
It was like they were having a conversation through songs in Philadelphia on Saturday night. Beyonce went from a rock-heavy arrangement of “If I Were a Boy” to a cover of Lauryn Hill’s grand “Ex-Factor.” She sang the latter as a woman scorned and repeated the line, “Why won’t you cry for me?” The crowd at the Citizens Bank Park sang along and cheered her on.
Jay Z’s reply: His confessional and emotional 2002 tune, “Song Cry.” It opens with the line: “I can’t see them coming down my eyes, so I got to make the song cry.”
He performed the track holding the microphone closely with both hands as he stood in place, all while a video of the power couple was shown in the background. She was in a wedding dress and they rode a motorcycle and danced.
She also cried, began shooting someone and was hit with a bullet. And then she sang the weighty ballad about a deceitful lover, “Resentment.”
Beyonce performed the 2006 song sitting down and wearing a wedding veil. She changed the lyrics to note she’s been “riding with you for 12 years,” which earned a rousing roar from the crowd. And a video followed, starting with the line, “Love is an act of endless forgiveness.”
The back-to-back performances full of sentiment and sensation were welcomed since Jayonce is pop’s most intimate couple. In concert, they seemed to lay it all out through song.
Beyonce was most passionate when she sang the upbeat number “Why Don’t You Love Me.” She even grew teary-eyed after she belted some of the lyrics and paused for a minute as the crowd cheered. And cheered. And cheered.
She followed that by singing Justin Timberlake’s part on the hit “Holy Grail,” staring directly at Jay Z and singing the lyrics as if it were written for her. The transition from “Why Don’t You Love Me” to “Holy Grail” was one of many that worked perfectly as the duo performed three dozen songs — some in snippets — for a feverish group of fans at a stadium with 40,000 seats.
They kicked off the nearly three-hour concert with high energy, going from “03 Bonnie & Clyde” to “Upgrade U” to “Crazy In Love.” They changed clothes about 10 times throughout the show, wearing mostly black with touches of leather onstage.
When Jay Z rapped about his “bad chick, H-town” during “Tom Ford,” Beyonce crept onstage. And when Jay Z performed the anthemic “Clique,” Beyonce was behind him. She nodded her head and then transitioned to “Diva,” where her singing style is not far from rapping, and her swag is not far from Jay Z’s.
It was also one of many songs where Beyonce danced with skill, enticing and igniting the audience and proving even further that she is contemporary pop’s leading performer. She danced with precision on songs like “Run the World (Girls),” “Flawless” and “Ring the Alarm.” Sometimes it was so clean she appeared robotic. And she also did the Nae Nae dance.