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Beyoncé and Jay Z mix it up

Insider's guide to summer's biggest concert: Beyoncé and slimmed-down Jay Z mix it up in tour opener

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Jay-Z and Beyonce in Miami On the Run tour June 2014
Jay Z and Beyoncé had a steamy night in Miami at the first stop of their summer concert tour. Photo by Kevin Mazur/Parkwood Entertainment
Pat Ryan head shot column mug June 2014

MIAMI — Unfortunately my travel schedule meant I will be unable to attend the Beyoncé and Jay-Z "On The Run" tour stop in Houston on July 18. Fortunately, however, my work schedule had me in Florida for the tour's opening night at Sun Life Stadium. Here is what fans can expect when the show comes to Houston:

Playlist: A delicate balance

I'll be candid, having seen Jay-Z, my favorite artist, five times already (with three of those shows being from the fourth row or better),  I set my expectations for seeing him in a gigantic football stadium very low. Furthermore I was concerned with how the show would flow having to mesh the two different musical styles of him and his wife.

 My attitude greatly improved four songs in when it was apparent that Jay and Bey would be alternating songs. 

The show started to fail my already low expectations by starting late (due to stormy weather), the heat, and the fact security wasn't policing people from filling the aisles and standing on seats that weren't their own. But my attitude greatly improved four songs in when it was apparent that Jay and Bey would be alternating songs.

I won't spoil the specifics of the order of the songs (Google it if you must) I was very pleased with how they balanced one another's hits by alternating every couple of songs and making cameos when applicable on each other's tracks.

The highlight for me was "Holy Grail," which Jay-Z originally recorded last summer with touring partner Justin Timberlake. Well, Beyoncé stole his verses and made the song hers. Their interaction all night was great but especially so during this song. I'm glad to know that I was fortunate enough to witness the first time they performed this song for an audience.

Wardrobe: Dual style icons

By regularly taking turns on the stage, it enabled both performers to have more wardrobe changes than usual. While I'm not quite the fashionista I will say that Beyoncé's look was impressive and I'm sure will be fodder for the many fashion bloggers. I am guessing almost all of her outfits were created or inspired by high designers such as Versace and Alexander McQueen. (Editor's note: You're right about Versace.)

Jay Z changed his look multiple times and incorporated a leather jacket, a nylon pullover, a sleeveless hoodie, a football jersey and a few fashion forward T-shirts. 

Regarding Jay Z, I knew he was going to stick to black and white. What was refreshing this time is that he changed his look multiple times and incorporated a leather jacket, a nylon pullover, a sleeveless hoodie, a football jersey and a few fashion-forward T-shirts. 

Jay-Z has always been a trendsetter when it comes to hip hop accessorizing and therefore I'm glad he ditched the played-out Cuban link chain and alternated between wearing multiple (as in six at a time) diamond necklaces and wearing at other times a simple single gold chain.

He borrowed a play from Pharrell and wore an old school style felt hat at one point. That choice was then countered by a "trapstar" SnapBack,  which is obviously much more in line with street culture.

I was also glad to see him ditch his black Timberlands at one point for a pair of Air Jordan XII's ( aka "taxis").

Performance: Athletic prowess

The first thing I noticed about Jay was that he looked trimmer than usual. He clearly slimmed down to be sure he could physical handle the rigors of an outdoor summer tour. He did not disappoint and was not once winded, unlike times during his multi-night residency to open the Barclays Center in Brooklyn two years ago.

Beyoncé was, as expected, in perfect shape and her dedication to her body paid off as her choreography, despite the heat, was phenomenal. To be honest, her performance was one of the most athletic feats I have witnessed in person.

Stage design: Basic look, great speakers

The stage was very basic, so while tour sponsor Live Nation saved money there, they more than made up for it by having very high-quality speakers and video screens. I was impressed by the sound quality considering we were in a football stadium. I therefore imagine the sound in Minute Maid, especially if the roof is closed, will be great.

 I imagine the sound in Minute Maid, especially if the roof is closed, will be great. 

There was a break every few songs, where they would show clips from the faux "On the Run" movie that this tour was based on. At first I thought this was corny, especially when compared to the heavily symbolic visuals Jay Z and Kanye employed during their "Watch The Throne" tour.

But eventually these vignettes won me over because they did blend together well and provided entertainment while giving the performers ample time to rest and change wardrobe.

Be sure to do some research beforehand on "symbols of the illuminati" because these clips definitely won't dispel rumors of Beyoncé and Jay's ties to that secret society that allegedly controls our economy, media, and government.

Merchandise: Creative misses

This was probably the most disappointing aspect of this concert experience. We all expect the shirts, hats and other various items to be overpriced, but I just didn't see any creative designs or "can't miss" merchandise. I did pick up a tour branded do-rag to help me manage the sweat I was dealing with because of Miami's humidity. It was beyond stifling — and that's saying something coming from a Houstonian.

Seating recommendation: Join the club

Due to the number of VIPs the tour needed to accommodate, the floor seating chart was greatly altered. Meaning some fans bought tickets they thought would be closer to the stage or more center than they actually were. That coupled with the fact that the floor became a free-for-all by the second song and people were standing on chairs and not in their assigned seats, it is hard to justify spending a lot of money on floor seats.

 That coupled with the fact that the floor became a free-for-all by the second song and people were standing on chairs and not in their assigned seats, it is hard to justify spending a lot of money on floor seats. 

I recommend getting club level seats so as to ensure you have great access to concessions, restrooms and the bar. This will provide a good angle plus a comfortable setting to enjoy the show at a more reasonable price.

That being said, there is a "VIP" general admission pit section which was actually on a special platform right in front of the stage and above the floor. If you can score these tickets you have a chance at touching Beyoncé as she interacted with fans in this area a few times.

Unique to Miami: A nightclub in the stadium

Sun Life Stadium has a nightclub inside its confines and in my experience these types of premium areas can be really hit or miss. While I'm skeptical of the need for such accommodations during a football game, the club was the perfect place to hang out and people watch both before and after the show. Does this set-up make sense in every venue? No. But in a city like Miami it was perfect.

Final take

Beyoncé is definitely the headliner as the screams were always louder for her. However she and Jay balanced one another perfectly and ultimate the concert was a good experience for a fan of either. This show is worth seeing so long as you stay within a reasonable ticket budget and have realistic expectations about your view because the tour is in stadiums and not more intimate arenas.

As co-owner of  The Ticket Experience, Patrick Ryan sees a lot of top concerts and sporting events.

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