The Carters ladies and gentlemen! That’s pretty much all that needs to be said about Friday night’s On The Run II Tour at the FedFex Field in Landover, MD. When you have two of the entertainment industry’s biggest artist teaming up for a tour, a one line review is sufficient enough, BUT we’re going to give you a little more than that.
For what served as only the second show of the North American leg, Beyoncé and Jay-Z brought their massive stadium tour to the DMV area with much fanfare. Before we get into the show itself, let’s talk about the culture impact that these two are. The DMV is already relatively known for their rush hour traffic, but throw Bey and Jay into the mix, and that creates a whole other problem. Traffic on all major highways and thoroughfares started backing up for miles, as early as 4 PM due to fans in a mad dash to get to the concert. Luckily, being that this wasn’t my first time at the rodeo for one of their concerts, I made the righteous decision to head out early and beat the traffic.
With people were steadily making attempts to make their way into the stadium, showtime started promptly at 7:30 PM with the sister group Chloe x Halle. Walking into the bowl of the stadium you couldn’t help but to notice the tour production, which easily spelled out bigger than life. A stage that spanned the entire width of the football field, with a mile high, retractable LED wall, two full length runways, a cherry picker, and an elevating stage that has the ability to hover over the crowd from one end of the stadium to the other. Standing on stage left of this colossal structure were Parkwood Entertainment’s two youngest shining stars, who pack a mighty punch. Decked out in silver and black Ivy Park gear, the dynamic duo came to do exactly what they were commissioned to do, warm the crowd up, piercing the earbuds and hearts of all those within hearing distance with their melodic sound. Kicking their set off with the song “Fake“, it was time to go on a bit of a musical journey. If you know anything about the Bailey sisters, you should know that they aren’t some pre-packaged pop act, these ladies are smorgasbord musical talent, from singing, to songwriting, and even playing live instruments, they pretty much do it all, so it’s no surprise that they incorporate all of that into their live shows too.
During their 25 minute set, they performed songs mainly lifted from their mixtape “The Two Of Us” and debut album “The Kids Are Alright“, with a few stand out tracks being “Hi Lo“, “Warrior“, “Cool People“, and “Grown“. Speaking of grown, let me just add that these ladies have grown tremendously since the last time that I saw them live. No longer are they the little girls that you remember from YouTube fame, what was before me on stage were two young women who on the brink of adulthood and displaying levels of maturity in every single way. Their voices are among the things that have aged as well, those harmonies…man, you just don’t hear harmonies like that in music PERIOD any more. Chloe x Halle’s angelic voices served more than just an entertainment purpose last Friday night, as they were the tools that sang to the high heavens to hold off the ugly thunderstorms that were due to flood out the area. While we may have only gotten a few sprinkles of rain, the Superior Being above must have heard CxH’s “calling card” and kept the show from being a wash…literally!
DJ Khaled was the next to hit the stage. He’s no stranger to the Bey + Jay clique, as he is a part of the Roc Nation family and previously opened for Beyoncé’s “Formation Tour” in 2016. In normal DJ fashion, he used his position as the party starter to get the crowd hype, performing a number of hits that he’s had a hand in producing. You really don’t realize the impact that he’s had on mainstream music over the past few years until you hear his songs back to back in a concert performance.
We all know that the bulk of his hits include SOME type of feature, so what would his live performance be without the same thing? Since this was the DMV stop of the tour, it only made sense for him to shine the spotlight on some acts from yesterday, and today, who call the DMV home. The “Father of Asahd” used his influence to bring out Goldlink, who performed “Crew“, DJ Kool, who took it back to the mid 90’s with “Let Me Clear My Throat“, and Go-Go music legends Backyard Band. What was the biggest surprise though, was when King Combs hit the stage to perform his single “Love You Better“. If the females in the audience weren’t already standing on their feet, this track got them up out of their seats. To close out his set, he set the stadium abuzz with a crowd lead acapella version of “All I Do Is Win“.
At approximately 9:21 PM, the stadium went pitch black and screeching screams could be heard miles away from FedEx Field. The “This Is Real Life” flashed across the video screen, but in reality, it seemed like all a dream as it was time for the King and Queen of the night to take their rightful place upon the throne. An extended video montage played (which showed Bey & Jay embracing the twins) before they made their descent on the crowd of thousands, on an elevator, hand in hand. Looking as fresh as ever in pure white outfits, the power couple burst into Jay’s single “Holy Grail” to officially open up the “On The Run II” Tour. A trip that would take us through the highs and lows of love. The first few songs obviously was “The Carters’ Show” as a number of their most notorious collabs were performed, including “03 Bonnie & Clyde“, “Part II (On The Run)“, and “Drunk In Love“, but this was JUST the beginning. As Mr. Carter walked off stage, he tagged in Queen Bey for a performance of “Diva”, including that too hype dance break to O.T. Genasis’ “Everybody Mad”, which became an internet sensation dance challenge, due in part to her Coachella performance of the same song.
For the next two hours and twenty minutes, B + J would continuously tag back and forth to give you hit after hit from their illustrious back catalog, and the way that they did it was ever so smooth. I’ve seen joint tours before where the transitions between one artist’s set into the other was a little rigid and contained gaps of dead air, but The Carters’ show ran like water. They either had video interludes that contained content from their “secret trip” to Jamaica that gave you the story of The Gangster and The Queen to distract you or song mashups that were rather slick, which took you from “Run This Town” straight into “Baby Boy”. Although on paper, the setlist was equally distributed with songs from both hit makers, at times the show did seem like it was a Jay-Z concert only featuring Beyoncé.
Granted this show was a love letter between a couple, what’s a power couple without supporting benefactors? At this point, everyone knows that when Bey hits the stage, she’s bringing “her girls” with her, and they were 18 strong, including fan favorites and dance captains Ashley Everette and Kimmie Gipson. A live concert is literally nothing without a live band, and OTR2 has had one of the biggest bands that either artist ever had accompany them on stage. 23 musicians were recessed into the stage on a four story high structure, and breathed new life into the classics that you THOUGHT you knew the arrangement to!
You already know what The Queen gives when she shows up…raw live vocals in almost perfect voice, swag for days, and the whole “Beyoncé effect” (we don’t need to explain it, you already know what we mean). Jigga Man was on his rock star ish, sending fireworks through the crowd with his lyrics that fans have been spitting for the last 25+ years and single-handedly bodied the stage. A few highlights of the show were the performances of “Formation” where they took it back to the video and danced a hole into the floating stage, “Déjà Vu“…the song that the Beyhive has been begging Yoncé to perform in concert for the past 10 years, “Public Service Announcement” and “Ni**as in Paris“.
And while OTR2 is an amazing experience and an event where you’ll definitely get your money’s worth, we do feel that it is a slight rehash of 2014’s original “On The Run” Tour. When you have two different fan bases to please, why deviate from a proven formula that worked before right? That could very well be a sentiment, but let’s address the elephant in the room….the clear absence of “Everything Is Love”. Once the new joint album dropped, everyone thought that the US leg was going to be a totally different show, knowing how The Carters love to switch things up when they reach new land for a new leg of tour. Fans thought they were going to get a revamped show that was going to be rather heavy on the EIL tracks, unfortunately that was not the case in Washington, DC. Not to say that they WON’T eventually debut new songs, but we were only treated to a performance of “APES**T” during the closing credits.
For any of you reading this, don’t let THAT be a determining factor of why you should/shouldn’t go see this concert. It’s pretty much THE MUST SEE concert event of the summer, if not year. If you’re looking for big budget production, high performance value, numerous costume changes, a story line involving black excellence and love in a show, then yea, run and grab your ticket to the On The Run II tour before they sell out.