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Ron Upshaw: The Jay-Z and Beyoncé Seattle concert left me wanting


There have been plenty of musical power couples over the years. Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash, Ike and Tina Turner, Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love, but I would argue that none is bigger or more consequential than Beyoncé and Jay-Z. Look no further than their nearly packed show last night at Century Link field.

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The thing that is most impressive to me is that both artists have tried to evolve and elevate over the course of their respective careers. Beyoncé began in the girl group Destiny’s Child and after some hits in their own right, she decided that being one of three didn’t quite feature her star power. She struck out on her own and with a unique mixture of talent, force of will, and a legendary work ethic, she has conquered pop music. Not only that, but the subject matter of her songs has gone from Bootylicious to exploring the struggles of fidelity in a marriage. Impressive stuff.

And Jay-Z has followed a similar arc. He has gone from the familiar tropes of early hip-hop about slinging drugs and fancy cars to exploring race in America and dealing with what it means to be a father and husband away from the testosterone of his on-stage persona. Oh, and he also penned the latest anthem for New York City that supplanted the Frank Sinatra song for everyone under the age of 50.

It seems to me that Jay-Z met his match when he fell in love with Beyoncé. I’m sure it takes everything he’s got to keep up with her, and I bet he’d have it no other way.

Having said all that, the concert last night left me wanting.

Watching them perform last night was a spectacle to behold. However, after the sheer size of the production lost its luster, the actual performance was confusing. To my ears, they never really found their stride. One minute, Jay Z would do a banger like “99 Problems” and the crowd would be elated, then he would hand things over to Beyoncé who would then inevitably slow things down with a nonstop run of vocal trills in a slow song about betrayal.

Don’t get me wrong, she’s a great vocalist, I was just confused as to why she didn’t match a Jay Z hit with one of her own? I think that’s why people paid these high ticket prices. To have fun, not empathize with her relationship gripes that are clearly water under the bridge at this point.

Then there would be long video interludes of the couple on a beach, the couple in bed, the couple riding motorcycles, and the couple with their children. They were cinematic and beautifully shot and edited. The images looked stunning on the giant video screens, but in my opinion, they slowed down the show again.

In my opinion, with dual headlines sharing the stage like this, no more than two or three songs should go by without hearing a hit. That was not the case last night.

Beyoncé and Jay Z are no doubt the current it couple in popular culture. I enjoyed their show, but found it overwrought and lacking momentum.

“What Are We Talking About Here” can be heard every weekday at 4:50 p.m. and 6:50 p.m. on the Ron & Don Show on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM.

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