Foxborough â For the past three years, BeyoncĂ© Knowles and Shawn âJay-Zâ Carter have been playing out their own version of a real-time domestic drama, using pop cultureâs increasingly panoptic view of stardom, their individual and collective megastardom, and their wide-ranging musical talent to chronicle the downs and ups of their relationship. The musician-slash-moguls married in April 2008, and started dating around the turn of the century â unofficially, an eon in celebrity years â but embraced and were able to sustain an Old Hollywood mystique around their relationship, a huge anomaly for the TMZ era.
Until 2016. That April, BeyoncĂ© released âLemonade,â a gripping, genre-melding âvisual albumâ that hinged conceptually on infidelity and its attendant stages of grief, and captivated music critics and gossip hounds alike. A little over a year later, Jay-Z released â4:44,â a brief yet potent album that focused squarely on his inner life, including his apologies and grieving over the charges leveled against him on his wifeâs earlier broadside.
In March, the duo announced a sequel to the On the Run tour, which began in Cardiff, Wales, and arrived at Gillette Stadium Sunday, suggesting if not a reconciliation at least a dĂ©tente; at the end of their London show on June 16, the video screens flashed âALBUM OUT NOWâ to signal the release of the trilogyâs final section, the celebratory yet frank âEverything Is Love.â On the Run II, now with the added bonus of songs from that last chapter, traces its romantic arc through both artistsâ smash-stuffed catalogs, collaging lyrics so that theyâre in conversation with one another, rearranging songs so that they reverberate â sonically and emotionally â throughout the stadiums this tour is playing.
More than 40 of the duoâs songs as solo artists and collaborators â as well as snippets of their own music and other snatches of pop â appeared during Sunday nightâs two-hour-plus show, which opened with the pair in honeymoon phase, with BeyoncĂ© singing the besotted chorus of Jayâs 2013 âSmells Like Teen Spiritâ-interpolating reflection on fame âHoly Grailâ and the duo then segueing into the âBonnieâ diptych. For the first half of the show, the theme was joyous and collaborative, with both Jay and BeyoncĂ© reveling in their swagger on (and the crowd responses to) the grown-man celebration âOn to the Next Oneâ and â***Flawless.â âYâall know itâs all of your flaws that make you flawless, right?â Beyonce asked the crowd. The two traded off and synched up smoothly, with BeyoncĂ©âs fiery take on the current trend of sing-rapping helping the âEverythingâ track âNICEâ soar and her mouthing Jayâs critiques of modern-day race relations on âBLACK EFFECT.â
From time to time, films that corresponded to each segmentâs theme (directed by Melina Metzoukas) would overtake the massive video screens; shot in Jamaica, they at times had the grainy, lived-in feel of home movies, and got meta when BeyoncĂ© (on the beach) and Jay (in the bedroom) picked up the cameras themselves. A clip that included a tense scene at a bar and gorgeous yet shocking shots of a house being torched to the foundations presaged the showâs dramatic turn â but those flames were no match for the righteous fury BeyoncĂ© showed on âRing the Alarm,â which had its backing track amped up to a stadium-worthy stomp, and âDonât Hurt Yourself,â which had her storming the stage while fire-and-brimstone pyrotechnics broiled the already-hot crowd.
Once the dust cleared, though, both BeyoncĂ© and Jay went into reflective mode; BeyoncĂ© showed off her pipes on âI Care,â which was transformed into an arena-rock ballad where she scatted along with the guitar solo, while Jay dropped a hopeful verse from the â4:44â bonus track âMaNyfaCedGodâ into his tender performance of the 2002 track âSong Cry.â BeyoncĂ©, perched on one of the stageâs two lengthy runways, followed it up with a ruefully show-stopping version of the self-explanatory 2006 ballad âResentmentâ â after the line âI know she was attractive,â she pulled a face that elicited a roar from the stadium â that felt like the punctuation to a fight where the only winner was its ending. Jay followed with the â4:44â apologia âFamily Feud,â and for the first time the stage lifted into the air, the two triumphing together.
The rest of the show was celebratory yet grounded, BeyoncĂ© and Jayâs shared past serving as a foundation for a stronger future â specifically, one where black men and black women can thrive. BeyoncĂ© paired the power-proud âFormationâ and âRun the World (Girls),â then capped them with a snippet of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichieâs thoughts on feminism; a ballet set to Nina Simoneâs chronicle of 19th- and 20th-century black womanhood âFour Womenâ preceded Jayâs âThe Story of O.J.,â which was accompanied by a clip referencing racist cartoons from the early 20th century. Jay ended that pointed track by declaring, âOnly love can conquer hate . . . Everything is love.â
The pair reveled in that statement. BeyoncĂ© threw back to the tank-and-cutoffs outfit she wore in the âCrazy in Loveâ video for that songâs performance, this time adding sequinsâ sparkle to its joyous soul. Videos of the couple enjoying family time with their children â and renewing their wedding vows â flickered while they performed a mash-up of Jayâs Alphaville flip âYoung Foreverâ and BeyoncĂ©âs verse on the Ed Sheeran chart-topper âPerfect.â Then they united on the âEverything Is Loveâ track âAPE[expletive],â which pairs name-dropping of high-end brands like Philippe Patek and Lamborghini with intricate word games that take aim at institutions that have been slow to catch up with the times â the Grammys, even the NFL â and reveling in their own union. âI canât believe we made it,â BeyoncĂ© drawled on the chorus, as the two led the crowd in the sort of gleeful partying one might see from a particularly large and raucous wedding receptionâs guests of honor, certain in their hope that they could weather nearly any storm.
Jay Z and BeyoncĂ©
With DJ Khaled, Chloe, and Halle
At Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Sunday
Maura Johnston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.