MIAMI GARDENS, Florida -- Beyonce and Jay Z launched their On the Run Tour here on a sticky Wednesday night, and while the spouses didn't advertise any catchy tagline for their joint run, "the couple that tours together, stays together" occurred to me as rather fitting.
You see, Mr. and Mrs. Carter had come on a mission -- "we celebratin' love," as Jay put it -- and they offered up their own high-altitude union as a flaws-and-all prototype. Married since 2008 and together for more than a decade, hip-hop's Bonnie & Clyde spent the better part of two hours at Sun Life Stadium (capacity: 76,000) demonstrating how to share a stage, egos aside.
The typically guarded pair flirted, winked, kissed (yes, kissed!) and ... took each other in. They toggled, repeatedly, and mostly seamlessly from one megastar catalog to the other and took fan-favorites in surprising new directions -- ones that imbued them with pathos that hadn't been there before. "Finally, you put my love on top," sent chills when Bey wailed those words now. "Why Don't You Love Me" similarly seemed to reopen old wounds.
At first, Bey's showmanship and marathon-level energy seemed to threaten to cast a shadow over her husband, who frequently commanded the stage solo while Mrs. Carter was supported by a bevy of backup dancers and singers. But with each toss of the musical baton, Jay seemed to draw momentum from both the crowd and the "Crazy in Love" singer.
So for example, when the Roc Nation boss performed "Tom Ford," his Houston-bred wife suddenly turned up behind him in a military cap chanting his "bad bitch, H-Town" line. And they did a variation of this back-and-forth to great effect several times: Beyonce in an ass-less bodysuit performing "Naughty Girl" gave way to Jay, fashionable in a fedora and leather jacket, doing a raucous rendition of "Big Pimpin.' "
Yonce doing dancehall for "Ring the Alarm" was followed by Jay's "Clique" verse, before he turned the mic over for "Diva" and "Baby Boy."
The lady of the house even filled in for Justin Timberlake on "Holy Grail." But this power couple were just getting started. "Drunk in Love" was as intoxicating as Jay rapping "Song Cry" -- about a betrayal -- was poignant. And Bey's operatic, crotch-grabbing take on "If I Were a Boy" provided a segue for her pleading cover of Lauryn Hill's "Ex Factor." The Carters were airing out their "99 Problems" -- and working through them onstage.
Flawless may be an apt description for how Mrs. Carter wakes up, but tonight it was clear that it wasn't necessarily how the chart-topping twosome saw themselves -- even if their personal albums made public can often seem to be selling such an image. As Bey and Jay duetted on a "Young Forever"/"Halo" mashup in the final act, fans were treated to a revealing stream of home movies -- including intimate shots of daughter Blue. But these implied the Carters are deeply united, not perfect.
So how did a pageant girl from Texas fall in love with a boy from Brooklyn's gritty Marcy Projects? If Jay Z and Beyonce seemed eager to explain why it all made sense in this exhaustive spectacular, it's probably because they know they've got something better than good.