The communion of an epic pop concert can remind us how invigorating it feels to be a part of the human race. The misery of an epic traffic jam does exactly the opposite.
Thousands felt the whiplash of going from the latter to the former Monday night when the starriest ticket of the summer — Beyoncé and Jay Z’s “On the Run” tour — landed at Baltimore’s M&T Bank Stadium.
While traffic outside the venue was at a near-standstill mere minutes before showtime, frustrated fans could be heard screaming inside their cars. (Admittedly, some agonized sounds might have come from this reporter, who — in spending more than three hours traveling from Washington to his seat — was amid the crush and rush.)
But as the late crowd hustled from hastily parked cars to the turnstiles, the roar of punctual fans could be heard inside.
What were those roars, really?
As pop music’s most powerful power couple, Jay Z and Beyoncé have made gobs of era-defining music while making themselves almost impossible to root for. In song and onstage, they present themselves as flawless and infallible. What do they have to lose? Cheering for Jay Z is like cheering for a tuxedoed oligarch. Cheering for Beyoncé is like cheering for the sun.
Which means those roars pouring out of Baltimore were an expression of pure exultation. For more than two hours, the singer and the rapper took turns performing their individual hits and occasionally teamed for scream-inducing duets. Here are three moments from the concert that felt particularly exultant.
“Why Don’t You Love Me,” from Beyoncé’s 2008 album “I Am . . . Sasha Fierce,” isn’t the strongest song in her arsenal, but Monday it felt like the perfect valve for all her superpowers. Her voice was fiery and agile during the song’s James Brown-style call-and-response intro, and then melted into something more sultry once the disco rhythm took hold. “I’m so damn easy to love,” she sang. She was right. And she knew it.
Jay Z might be one of the coolest heads in the history of hip-hop, but he knows how to do joy. On Monday, “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” felt particularly exuberant. He seemed to be having as much fun as his admirers. And as he proved on tour with Kanye West a couple of years back, he’s at his most expressive when he has to share the stage with another superstar.
As far as odes to marriage go, “Drunk in Love” is a woozy duet, but Beyoncé managed to punctuate it with some very precise gyrations. The biggest screams came at the end of the song, when her husband planted a kiss on her neck. It was an all-you-need-is-love moment from the couple who has it all.