Teflon power couple Beyoncé and Jay-Z have never been shy about using their glamorous relationship for commercial titillation, self-styling themselves as “the gangster and the queen” in the idealised opening credit sequence of this On The Run II tour, while acknowledging, in the most stylised fashion, the cracks in the coating through staged glimpses of their private life.
Music review: Beyoncé & Jay-Z: OTR II, Hampden Park, Glasgow ***
The airbrushed Bonnie and Clyde then descended from their lofty eyrie with hands clasped, Beyoncé drilling her gaze into the man who has dared to disrespect her with his infidelities. “I still don’t know why I love you so much” she trilled as they made their starry way down separate catwalks. Read into that what you will – because that’s all part of the game in this lavish, big budget, soul-shielding masque.
Their band were initially sequestered behind huge screens because who cares about those guys anyway? They’re only providing the heartbeat and bass boom of this whole extravaganza. Thankfully, there was a classy unveiling during Drunk In Love when the screens parted to reveal an impressive 26-piece “vertical orchestra” of scarlet suited-and-booted players stationed on a huge lattice of platforms.
They were rightly given their due, along with Beyoncé’s platoon of dancers, even if it was hard to love much of the staccato choreography and the booming bells and whistles which followed across a succession of attention deficit numbers which crammed in multiple R&B, hip-hop, funk, reggae and even Indian classical music references without providing tunes to get your teeth into.
The distinct lack of anthems was rectified in style with Jay-Z’s mighty Run This Town and 99 Problems delivered against a backdrop of celebrity mugshots.
Beyoncé’s riposte to each of these was to lead her dancers in a high-kicking haka through Sorry and deliver the melodramatic temper tantrum of Ring the Alarm bolstered by a brilliant brass fanfare from the band at their most badass.
The brass players were once again at the helm for a funky Déjà Vu and to render that irresistible central Chilites sample from Crazy In Love. The former played to Beyoncé’s strengths as an old school showbiz performer – while the mask never slipped during her precisiondrilled performance, there was a softening of the warrior persona here and during the closing Young Forever – essentially a cover of Alphaville’s 80s hit Forever Young – which made for a sweet, uplifting finish.