It’s been two years since I witnessed the utter greatness that is Beyoncé. It was in Baltimore, MD at the M&T Bank Stadium that I was able to witness the icon for the very first time in my life, during her “Formation World Tour.” After that monumental experience, I vouched if she announced another tour, I would not miss it for the world. Fast forward to July 28th at FedEx Field, in Landover, MD, and my promise was finally fulfilled. Along with five of my close friends, I was able to witness the beauty that is “OTR II.” Not only did I get to witness the legendary mother of three effortlessly deliver, but I got to see the head honcho himself, Jay-Z! I FINALLY was able to see Hov for the very first time in my 22 years of living. My life changed… yet again!
Although I missed the first OTR Tour in 2014, I refused to not be present for the OTR II. Before the fun began, as we eagerly rushed to find our seats, my friends and I spotted Jada Pinkett Smith’s mother grabbing some food! From that sighting, I knew this would be an unforgettable experience. The magical moments continued with a larger-than-life opening performance from the dynamic duo Chloe x Halle. With such high energy, the two sisters performed a plethora of cuts from their debut album, The Kids Are Alright! “DMV, are you ready to have a good time tonight?”, they shouted! Their energy was so pure and contagious! I honestly didn’t know any of their songs besides one, but I couldn’t help but catch myself vibing and dancing in my chair. The pair performed nonstop for about an hour before they thanked the crowd for jamming with them. Once the sister act departed the stage, the lights dimmed and the main screen lit up with a message: “The Carters were coming…”
Eerie music and cryptic messages continued to pop up on the screen, “THIS IS REAL LIFE. ON THE RUN II.” As the message disappeared, the stadium thundered with shouting as eager fans excitedly awaited Jay and Bey. A cinematic movie began showcasing the tour’s main attractions, The Carters. As the cinema continued, the screen split with the words, “THE GANGSTER,” and “AND THE QUEEN.” The movie showcased Beyonce and Jay-Z in a truly vulnerable state with various visuals and depictions of the two, their travels through several countries, and family. The visuals continued as the words “THE CHASE” appeared, followed by “THE LOVE STORY.” The screen then split yet again and showed Jay-Z inside what appeared to be a church, while Beyonce stood outside with the ocean behind her. The fans went insane. It told this story of the gangster, his girl, their trials, tribulations, and their re-connection. There were so many elements that it almost felt overwhelming. The visuals ended with the screen split down the middle again with Bey on the left side holding twins, Jay holding twins and a message that said, “LOVE IS UNIVERSAL.” Afterward, the screen went black, and then, the Carters arose at the top of the stage, hand in hand as the moving platform brought them to the center of the stage. History was being made yet again.
As the two descended to the ground, the live band began to play Jay-Z’s “Holy Grail.” Fans went ballistic as they watched the couple in their all-white ensemble. Bey then lifted the microphone to her mouth and began to sing Justin Timberlake’s part of the song and the crowd ate it up. Everyone in the arena went insane. The happy couple’s setlist contained well over 30 songs , including cuts from each of their individual catalogs (“Diva”, “Resentment”, “Formation”, “Ring the Alarm”, “Don’t Hurt Yourself”, “Flawless”, “Naughty Girl”, “Big Pimpin”, “Song Cry”, “Public Service Announcement / My Name is Hov”, “Family Feud”, “99 Problems”, and “Beach is Better”… just to name a few) as well as their joint songs (“’03 Bonnie and Clyde”, “Upgrade U”, “Deja Vu”, “Crazy in Love”, and “Pt. II On the Run”). They performed for well over two hours showing no signs of fatigue.
There were several key components that truly made this tour so amazingly dope for me. The first components began with graphics, design, and visuals. It seems like The Carters are literally thinking of ways to one-up their previous efforts. I was utterly shaking when I saw Bey in 2016 by the visuals alone. The stage moved, there was water, it rotated, and even shot fire! This time, the stage was split into two immensely long runways that connected to the main stage. The stage elevated and descended, allowing the two to connect with fans even more than they had before. The stage shot fire once again and even had electric pyro effects. The visuals were literally to die for. There were so many that it was so easy to miss something. I see why they take their precious time when it comes to delivering these tours because it is simply so much more than just rapping and singing. They basically created a whole movie that embodied the theme of the tour, their music, and their personal life! It was truly mesmerizing to witness. The graphics were so crystal clear, so clean and precise that one could shed a tear. The entire design exuberated excellence.
Of course, the combined music of each artist was a key element to the show’s success. I loved that Jay was given the same amount of space and time to shine just like Bey. Although I love Beyonce so very much, I nearly lost it every time Jigga performed anything from his set. This was my very first time seeing Jay on tour and he KILLED it! His energy was so high. There was even a moment during the show where he performed “N*ggas in Paris”, stopped it, then yelled to the crowd about getting as hype as they possibly could, then he redid it! The crowd went absolutely bonkers. It was so very refreshing for me, because social media has been trying to downplay him since the tour’s announcement in March. At the end of the day, regardless of how much we love Bey, let us please acknowledge that Jay was great before her and is just even greater now. His stage presence was incredible. If he could have gone for the entire night I’m sure he would have. He performed so many of my favorite tracks and he was truly like a kid in the candy store as he was hype with the crowd and just had fun! I’m pretty sure I was rapping to every single song of his. I literally never sat down anytime he performed from his set.
Now, of course, you cannot talk about Jay and not mention Beyoncé! Queen Bey was the absolute definition of immaculate. From the opening number to the show’s close, Bey literally bodied everything. Her voice was so strong and heavenly. One minute she’s giving us the highest of the highest pitches, and in the very next her voice was low, raspy, and sensual. She hit each and every key and tone you could think of. Her runs were harmonious. Let’s not even start with the dancing. Beyoncé quickly reminded everyone that while she may be 36 and a mother of three beautiful kids, she can still tear up any and every stage there is. Her dancing was so… “hood-rich”, but still so very elegant and classy. She and Jay both changed into about 6-8 different outfits and it was like with each outfit, the audience witnessed another characteristic of their monumental personas. It was truly theatrical. My favorite dance parts were when she did the Swagg Surf on stage and had the entire stadium dancing, and then when she did her famous dance break down to O.T. Genasis’ “Everybody Mad.” I sat there speechless. I could not understand how on Earth was she doing all these intricate movements in such tall heels. Her stage presence was even better than the “Formation Tour” and she looked like she was enjoying herself so much! It seemed as if her energy thrived from the audience because she never appeared tired. Her voice never lost its zeal and her moves seemed to only get better throughout the night. The chemistry between both her and her husband was amazing and it truly showed on stage. They were just so in love, so at peace, and truly happy as they performed song after song.
Another component that truly made the show great were the transitions. I’m honestly still so blown away by how they managed to outdo themselves yet again with their transitions. Each song literally flowed into one. It was remarkable how Jay’s songs transitioned into Bey’s songs or vice versa. It was as if that was how the songs were supposed to sound all along. There were moments where the meshed the songs and Jay would be rapping a verse from one song as Bey was singing a lyric from another song and it just created this chaotic beauty that was so amazing to watch. Lastly, the production deserved a STANDING OVATION! The band was phenomenal. Their energy matched that of both Jay and Beyoncé. They never tired out (which is really outstanding) and truthfully, if it was not for them, The Carters’ vision would not have been executed the way they desired it to be. They were so influential in the success of the show and they did a wonderful job. The dancers were amazing. Every pop lock, drop, spin, twist… whatever Bey wanted them to do, it was done with order and excellence. Each and every one of the dancers was great. The background singers were wonderful. Everybody was on one accord and it showed through every little action. Each group’s role was very significant to the delivery and execution of this show.
Even though there were actually very minimal negatives to the show, there were some areas I observed that I felt could have made the show so much better. For starters, DJ Khaled was late and did not even perform his opening set, which was actually very frustrating because he performed the night before and brought out Goldlink, King Combs, and the legendary DC band Backyard Band. The previous night’s (July 27) show was actually a show that was added on to the tour and was not even originally on the schedule… So, it was annoying that the original show did not have any special guests at all. One other key negative was that they did not perform really any of the songs from their joint album EVERYTHING IS LOVE. While they did close the show with “APESH*T,” that was literally the only song from the album that they performed. I didn’t get to witness the vibrations from the warm, hypnotic “SUMMER,” raise my price with Jay on “NICE,” or sing with Bey about how great my friends are on “FRIENDS.”
Overall, besides those few problems, the show was completely amazing and they have yet another experience. They both put 100% into the entire show and it showed. From the dancers, graphics, and displays to the band, Jay-Z and Beyoncé themselves, everything was perfection. The couple were beautiful together and created pure magic on that stage. I mean, even the Obamas felt the need to attend and party with them. That speaks many volumes to me. It was definitely a night filled with much love and happiness and will be a concert that I will never forget for the rest of my life. Beyoncé and Jay-Z, thank you for the experience of a lifetime!
The North American leg of OTR II will continue for the rest of the summer, making stops in Chicago, Atlanta, Houston, Miami, LA, and more before ending in the fall, on Wednesday (Oct. 4) in Seattle.