Beyoncé and Jay-Z Wrap Up On The Run II Tour At Seattle’s Century Link Stadium (SHOW REVIEW)

Beyoncé and Jay-Z last week played the final show of their On The Run II Tour to a nearly sold-out Centurylink Stadium in Seattle. Spanning more than two and a half hours, the show included everything one might expect from these megastars: dramatically choreographed songs, innumerable costume changes, pyrotechnics, and massive visuals. And despite the cold, it had fans young and old dancing along through an incessant torrent of music and visuals.

As a Beyoncé and Jay-Z live show newbie, there were definite highs and a relative few lows. From the beginning, the production was impressive and visually engaging throughout. With multi-story screens backing the stage, every move of the two headliners was perfectly rendered. In fact, the videography included impressive real-time visual re-arrangement: whether multiple Beyoncé images in tracers, or Jay-Z spouting flames, or reverse negative images of the performers. Similarly, the stage extended along two walkways out into the audience, including moving walkways along each side, enabling myriad unique dance and pursuit thematic visual elements. A few times throughout the show, the stage itself raised up and traveled the distance of the runways, going over the heads of the audience cheering in front of the stage. Pyrotechnics gave a few songs a particularly strong emphasis, exploding not only at stage level but many stories above. Finally, a set of dance cages, similar to the side of an apartment building with the wall removed, set the backdrop for the middle of the stage, presenting many opportunities for the innumerable backing musicians, backup dancers, and Jay-Z and Queen Bey themselves to create a wall of spectacle.

The two stars ran through an impressive catalog from distant and near past, careering across heavy emotions (loss, infidelity, racism, oppression) and lighter (ahem, “99 Problems,” as well as lighthearted family video footage of their twins and new baby). Audio in some places was spotty, with the left half of the stadium occasionally losing vocals or audio more generally. This seemed to particularly fade out Beyoncé’s vocals, much to the chagrin of this reviewer.

The two took turns soloing throughout the show, only occasionally doing full-length duets. As might be expected, Beyoncé shone in hers, particularly in her gorgeous presentation of “Resentment,” a song she performed in a voluminous dress, seated at the end of one runway, to an entranced audience. Duets felt less powerful – in part, perhaps, because Beyoncé’s voice often didn’t have the opportunity to shine in those. Similarly, Jay-Z had some stand-out solos – including the anger-inducing, heartbreakingly powerful “The Story of O.J.,” with its black and white video further driving home the inequity against which it explicitly rails.

A medley of “Niggas In Paris,” “Beach Is Better,” and “Formation,” was another highlight, making full use of the pyrotechnic and visual capabilities of the production – and giving the audience ample opportunities to participate. Jay-Z owned the stage, perhaps unsurprisingly for one of the best-selling hip-hop artists of all time. “Mi Gente” was another show stealer, the Latin rhythms ably accompanied by Bey’s troupe of wildly-gyrating dancers.

Finally, show closers “Forever Young” (a cover of the 1980s Alphaville hit) and “Apesh*t” left the audience bouncing out of the stadium, oddly buoyed, wanting more despite the late hour.

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