When The Carters released their highly anticipated debut joint album Everything Is Love back in June, it became more of a collective affirmation than it was a fun and quick listen.
Beyoncé’s post-Lemonade rage and Jay-Z’s shocking revelations on 4:44 bolstered rumors that the one indestructible duo were now on the verge of ruin—all due to his infidelity. Jay confessed his sins on his most emotional record to date, but it hardly seemed like enough to satisfy fans who took his betrayal personally.
The rapper did only a few interviews — including with Dean Baquet from The New York Times and CNN’s Van Jones — to clear the air about his behavior and status of his marriage. But those efforts felt hollow; unpacking how his cheating led to radical healing and self-awareness seemed like a well calculated PR move as opposed to a genuine attempt at redemption. But he and Beyoncé both knew what listeners needed to feel whole again and it wasn’t trite anecdotes about relationship woes — it was music. And their On The Run II tour — which made a stop last night (August 5) at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough — felt like the answers to our prayers.
After openers Chloe x Halle and DJ Khaled, the couple appeared hand-in-hand and seemingly more comfortable and confident together than ever before. Even as they broke away from each other to perform the first song of the evening — the Justin Timberlake assisted Jay-Z single “Holy Grail” –their undeniable magnetism reigned supreme. Throughout a nearly three-hour performance, the solo moments from each respective artist were just as lush and fulfilling as the shared ones. “Clique,” “Onto The Next One,” “Dirt Off Your Shoulder,” and “Big Pimpin’” still showed that Jay-Z was full of gusto, grit and fiery resolve. Despite the affluence, fame and even indiscretions, the emcee will always be a boy from Brooklyn who wouldn’t let anything stop him from pursuing his dreams.
The sheer sweeping energy that Beyoncé has maintained as a live performer for the last two decades remains undisputed. “Diva,” “Formation,” “Run The World (Girls),” and “Baby Boy” were still infectious songs and ones in which their grandiosity outrun the test of time. The intensity of Jay’s “Song Cry” was eclipsed by the bountiful pain of Beyoncé’s “Resentment”; the intimate nature of “4:44” was perfectly complemented by the interpolation of “I Care.”
The images that were plastered across the background screens throughout their set featured intimate family portraits, exotic vacation spots, and verbal reminders that the pair embody real love. This point couldn’t have been made clearer than when they revealed the celebratory anthem “Apeshit” as their final song of the night.
For Jay and Bey, strife and struggle serve as fuel to be stronger as a unit than on their own — making them victorious on their own terms and no one else’s.
Photos by Candace McDuffie; follow her on Instagram @cmcduffie1.