It seemed inevitable that Jay Z, the king of the co-headlining tour, would one day team up with his wife, Beyoncé, for a blockbuster road show.

Their On the Run Tour, which kicked off in April, has been pure box office gold, with hundreds of thousands of fans filling stadiums from coast to coast to see the ultimate power couple in concert. Billboard magazine says the trek is due to gross more than $100 million.

Yet just because a pairing makes sense doesn't ensure that it will live up to expectations onstage.

Unfortunately, Jay Z and Beyoncé's performance on Tuesday at AT&T Park -- the first of two nights at the home of the San Francisco Giants -- fell well short of its vast potential. The sold-out show wasn't bad, just maddeningly mediocre.

There are many problems with this tour, all of which should have been ironed out long before it reached its final North American stop in San Francisco. The set list is iffy -- despite stretching some 40 songs -- and the production is awkward. There's too great of an emphasis on video elements and other things that keep the two stars offstage, which sabotages any sense of momentum and dampens the enthusiasm of the crowd. The show grinds to a halt way too often, when putting the pedal to the metal would be a far better choice.


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Ironically, given that rumors about the couple's supposedly crumbling marriage have followed the tour for weeks, the most troubling aspect of Tuesday's show was the almost complete lack of synergy and chemistry between the two vocalists. It felt like two solo shows spliced into one big 2½-hour outing, where the whole was less than the sum of its parts. Beyoncé and Jay Z shared the stage on several occasions -- such as during an opening segment that included "'03 Bonnie & Clyde" and "Crazy in Love" -- but the collaboration felt too choreographed and rarely ignited much of a spark. If Beyoncé and Jay Z were looking for ammunition to refute the rumors about their marriage, Tuesday's show didn't provide any.

One would think that Jay Z would have mastered this co-headlining concept by now, having previously shared the stage with Mary J. Blige, Kanye West, Justin Timberlake and others. Yet On the Run isn't nearly as good as any of those other outings -- especially the terrific Timberlake co-bill, which hit Candlestick Park last year.

The big-budget production was often impressive to behold but in ways that resembled one of Michael Bay's "Transformers" movies. It lacked direction and purpose but not costume changes and special effects, leaving one to believe the best moments might have been left on the editing room floor.

Both performers can be dynamite onstage, although it's been quite some time since Beyoncé did her best work on the road. Her early solo tours, such as 2007's The Beyoncé Experience and 2009-10's I Am ... World Tour, were near-flawless pop spectacles. But the Queen Bey of R&B has disappointed on more recent treks, including on 2013-14's overly indulgent The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour.

Her voice was in exquisite form throughout Tuesday's show but never better than on the lovely ballad "Drunk in Love" (off Beyoncé's eponymous fifth studio album from last year). She came across loud and clear -- reportedly even miles from the stadium. Twitter was buzzing all night with San Francisco residents ranting/raving about how they could hear the show from their homes. Jay Z held his own, and occasionally a little more, as he rolled through such favorites as "Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)."

Still, it was really hard to get into a groove for long, as Beyoncé and Jay Z kept exiting the stage and leaving the 40,000-strong crowd to watch videos on the giant overhead screens. Also, it was unfortunate to hear the stars perform abbreviated versions of some of their best songs, including a hacked up "Halo" that was anything but heavenly.

In all, it was a disappointing effort from two of pop music's best artists. Hopefully, they'll give it another try down the road and the result will finally reach its true potential.

Follow Jim Harrington at Twitter.com/jimthecritic and Facebook.com/jim.bayareanews.