Before the musical royalty known as Beyonce and Jay-Z appeared between the cracks of giant video screens, holding hands as they descended on a platform, the words “This is Real Life” flashed to the audience.
It’s a message worth remembering throughout the couple’s blazing 2 ½-hour production, an emotional study of love and forgiveness as much as it is a stunning spectacle worthy of its massive environs.
At the first of their two concerts at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Saturday night (this one was packed to the rafters, but some seats are available for Sunday’s encore) during their “On the Run II” tour, Jay and Bey infused the show with genuine heat.
During the opening “Holy Grail,” Beyonce, clad in a striking white beaded leotard, strolled the stage with heavy-lidded sensuality. She mouthed lyrics as he rapped; he nodded his head approvingly as she uncorked a traditional Beyonce wail.
As they drew close in a near slow-dance for “Part II (On the Run),” Beyonce flashed Jay adoring looks while he gazed at her as if he finally realized he won the biggest prize. Even as they each took a walk down separate lighted catwalks that ran nearly the length of the stadium floor for “ ’03 Bonnie & Clyde,” their first collaboration from seemingly 100 lifetimes ago, the pair simmered.
While the fun in this show is watching these interactions, there is also a bit of internal cringing because, as the message stated, this is real life, and the Carters have endured their share of personal upheaval.
The realness of their relationship – which, fans might recall, supposedly took its hardest detour during their initial “On the Run” outing in 2014 – was spotlighted about 90 minutes into the show. In a segment that launched with Beyonce sitting back-to-back with Jay and spitting the words to “Ring the Alarm,” the pair took turns baring raw emotions.
She delivered 2011’s “I Care” forcefully enough to indicate there is still a point to make. He responded by standing solo on the catwalk for “4:44” and “Song Cry,” as the crowd held up lighted cell phones. But Beyonce was the KO empress of this round as she sat at the edge of the catwalk in a billowing creamsicle-colored dress for “Resentment,” a tour-de-force of a takedown.