The hot On the Run II Tour rolled into Los Angeles for the first of its two-night stand at the Rose Bowl last night (Sept. 22), and it was everything that has previously been written about Beyoncé and JAY-Z’s popular international junket that began in June.
Among the night’s fun observations and memorable moments:
Tailgate parties: Getting to the Rose Bowl (the stadium is located in nearby Pasadena) and then traipsing across the massive Brookside Park (the nearby designated parking area with eight lots) was reminiscent of navigating traffic to and the crowds inside Disneyland. It was an exercise in patience — and just plain exercise. But nothing was going to stand in the way of Beyoncé and JAY-Z’s fervent fans, the smartest of whom arrived way ahead of the 8:40 p.m. show time to chill at tailgate parties on the grass.
All he does is win: DJ Khaled proved to be the perfect party starter. After a solid set by Chloe x Halle, including the theme song “Grown” from the TV series grown-ish and another duo fave “Happy Without Me,” an exuberant DJ Khaled took control. Snippets from his string of hits — “All I Do Is Win,” “All the Way Up,” “I’m on On One,” “For Free” and especially “Wild Thoughts” — whipped fans into a sing-along frenzy. Switching into DJ mode himself, Khaled (who proudly declared “I am the father of Asahd!” of course) upped the ante starting with DMX’s “Party Up (Up in Here)” and then segueing into DJ Snake/Lil Jon’s “Turn Down for What,” Bell Biv DeVoe’s “Poison,” Kris Kross’ “Jump” and Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow.” But it was his array of surprise guests doing some of their own hits that took things over the top: Nipsey Hussle, Big Sean (whose mom was backstage), Busta Rhymes, O.T. Genasis, Diddy’s son King Combs and newcomer Flipp Dinero all made appearances in his set.
In total command: From the moment the words “This Is Real Life” flashed across the three giant videos screens until the end when the same screens flashed “This Is Real Love,” the Carters kept the indefatigable audience on its feet singing along and dancing for nearly three hours. Running through classic and new gems in their individual and collective repertoires, Beyoncé and JAY-Z played out once more the tribulations and trials in their life as well as social and inner issues confronting all of us.
In most instances, it took only a couple of notes for the audience to recognize a coming song and begin singing along and dancing. The Carters’ performance of “Bonnie & Clyde” early on was a rabid crowd pleaser, as was the pair’s “Black Effect,” “Drunk in Love,” “Crazy in Love” and rousing closers “Forever Young” and “Apes–t.” Also intriguing were the creative mashups peppering the show like “I Care”/”4:44”, “Bam”/”Ring the Alarm” and “Irreplaceable”/”Diva,” the latter pair done to an infectious march cadence.
Aside from perennial audience faves like “Dirt Off Your Shoulder,” “Big Pimpin’” and “99 Problems,” JAY-Z kept the audience pumped with more recent selections such as the ebullient “N—-s in Paris,” “Beach Is Better” and the teaching moment “The Story of O.J.” The rap legend delivered one of his most passionate performances on “Song Cry.”
Watching Beyoncé standing onstage silently surveying the audience had fans screaming at the top of their lungs. But just as reverberating were their reactions to some of her most powerful performances of the night, expressly “Sorry,” “Don’t Hurt Yourself” (which had females fervently shouting back “who the f–k do you think I is?!”) and the searing ballad “Resentment.” At one point, a section of the audience to the side of the stage broke out into an impromptu electric slide for “Déjà Vu.”
Also adding their own creative zeal to round out the evening: Bey’s fierce dance team and the pair’s equally dance-happy band. Definitely more in sync with each other since the first OTR tour, Beyoncé and JAY-Z underscored why individually and together they’re two of the most talented artists in music.
Marketing mastery: Not surprisingly, lines were packed at the various merchandising booths stationed around the venue, featuring T-shirts and other items. One of the most popular fashion statements sported by female fans in the stadium were black cropped tees emblazoned with the OTR II logo. At night’s end when the booths had closed, fans still wanting to grab concert memorabilia were directed to vending machines that were doing brisk business as well. Items inside the machines included hats ranging between $40-$50 and bandanas for $20. In addition to personnel distributing cards for a free six-month trial of Tidal, others were engaged in a very important mission: registering voters in advance of the November mid-term elections.
Celebrity contingent: Oprah was in the house, as was Issa Rae of HBO’s Insecure and actress Holly Robinson Peete. Artists Trevor Jackson and Diggy Simpson were spotted as well. And cheers erupted throughout the Bowl when the audience saw retired Laker great Kobe Bryant and his family being escorted to their seats.
On the Run II closes out its second show at the Rose Bowl tonight (Sept. 23). The tour will finish up its last four dates, starting with San Diego (Sept. 27).