If the rumors are to be believed, Beyoncé and Jay Z have been living separate lives for a while now. In a July New York Post article, a source claimed the couple was finding a way to split that wouldn’t disrupt their huge concert tour, the last show of which was secretly set to be the subject of HBO’s “On The Run Tour: Beyoncé and Jay Z.” But when the concert documentary premiered on Saturday, it wasn’t just a rehash of the show’s Sept. 13 Paris-set finale. Instead, “On The Run” seemed more like the couple’s response to the gossip, culminating in a glorious tribute to America’s royal couple, who most definitely seem to remain (drunk) in love.

On The Run Tour: Beyoncé and Jay Z



If you thought you’d seen it all from Beyoncé in the last year — a surprise album, a sold-out worldwide tour, that show-stopping VMA performance last month — she raises the bar yet again in “On The Run,” while her husband continues to be one of rap music’s most dominant and talented musicians. In fact, the concert brings out the best in each performer — infectiously likable and, if possible, even more elite when sharing the stage together.

The concert’s set list is masterfully crafted, and it’s clear as soon as the opening guitar strums of “ ‘03 Bonnie & Clyde” disseminate through the Stade de France for the first time. Throughout the special’s two-and-a-half hour running time, the couple’s newest releases, Beyoncé and Magna Carta Holy Grail, are heavily featured, but without neglecting the classics — “Crazy in Love,” “Baby Boy,” “99 Problems,” “Hard Knock Life” and many others.

“On The Run” is also surprisingly inventive. Instead of lazily running through each of their vast catalogs of crowd-pleasers (there are certainly enough of them), Beyoncé and Jay Z reworked and remixed their greatest hits while simultaneously highlighting a number of lesser-performed titles — the jazzed-up rendition of “Ring The Alarm,” a Nikki Minaj-assisted, elevator incident-referencing version of “Flawless” and a “Love On Top”/“I Want You Back” mash-up are just a few instances of the power-producing that elevate “On The Run.”

But it isn’t simply Bey and Jay’s musical proficiency or palpable chemistry that propels the concert doc to such soaring heights. Director Jonas Åkerlund proves to be “On The Run” ’s indispensable third wheel — its success as attributable to the man behind the camera as it is to the duo occupying the stage. Supported by the disclaimer that “this is not real,” “On The Run” appropriately tells the story of a fugitive couple. Beyoncé and Jay Z drive fast cars, brandishing big stacks and even bigger guns as they flee the authorities that chase them. In the wrong hands, the sequences could have easily been overshadowed by the power of its subjects or dismissed as merely interludes allowing for costume changes. But instead, Åkerlund’s gritty, atmospheric visual story unfolds as a defining centerpiece of “On The Run,” drawing upon French filmmaking and the country’s romance-tinged aesthetic.

There are stateside influences that are also present in Åkerlund’s “On The Run,” as imagery from Quentin Tarantino’s “Kill Bill” is a ubiquitous presence that informs much of the narrative and in turn, enhances the visual splendor. It’s not the first time Beyoncé and the director have paid homage to the bold 2004 revenge flick. In “Telephone,” their collaboration with Lady Gaga, Beyoncé rescues the blonde singer from prison in the yellow, “Pussy Wagon”-branded truck famously driven by Uma Thurman’s character in “Volume 1.”

In “On The Run,” however, the nods to “Kill Bill” are more significant. Even from HBO’s first promo for the concert special, in which Beyoncé serenades Jay Z with a rendition of Nancy Sinatra’s “Bang Bang” (a song prominently featured in the opening credits of Tarantino’s film) it was clear that “On The Run” would draw upon similar themes. A decade after the release of “Kill Bill,” Beyoncé embodies an updated iteration of The Bride — clad in white, doomed by her love for a dangerous man, hell-bent on wreaking havoc against her oppressors. The tribute gives “On The Run” artistic merit separate from its performances, amounting to something much more significant than your average concert tour (or concert film).

Ultimately, the onscreen versions of Bey and Jay meet a violent demise in a stunning sequence that samples both Sinatra’s “Bang Bang” and The xx’s sultry “Angels.” But the characters’ deaths allow for “On The Run” to make yet another powerful declaration. “This is real life,” Jay pronounces to the packed crowd of over 60,000 people. And suddenly, Mr. and Mrs. Carter are performing against a backdrop of videos of a very different nature. “Young Forever” and “Halo” provide the soundtrack to a striking montage of home videos from the Carters’ more than decade-long relationship, including footage of their engagement, wedding and journey into parenthood, spotlighting a vulnerable side to the couple uncharacteristic of their exceedingly private past. “This is real life” is not only “On The Run” ’s powerful ending, but its lasting impact — the dichotomy between real and not real, genuine and manufactured, facts and rumors. And the result is ***flawless.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.