Rihanna‘s ANTI Tour show is, in many ways, just that…. Anti. So many elements of the show go against the norm from what you might expect when you come to see an arena concert by a huge pop star. From the all white stage set up to the lack of over-the-top theatrics. Rihanna even begins the show in the middle of the arena before making her way to the main stage a few songs into the set.
Before all that though, the crowd laps up the opening set by the headliner’s boyfriend, Travis Scott. Performing in front of a huge model of his own head, the 23 year old rapper easily wins over the enthusiastic crowd, despite his obviously autotuned vocals. He comes across as very likeable and hits like Antidote and 3500 help get the fans in party mode ahead of the main show.
When the lights drop and the opening chords of Stay echo around the Bell Centre it’s only a single spotlight that guide the audience’s eyes away from the stage at the front. We hear Rihanna’s voice before we see her in person, rising from beneath a platform in the centre of the venue peering out from beneath her huge hood. The choice of song is unusual to start a big pop concert but it works well and Love the Way You Lie continues to slowly builds the mood.
Climbing aboard a moving walkway, things quickly get more suggestive as she begins to de-robe while singing the blatantly raunchy lyrics to Sex With Me. It’s not an obvious choice for the show as it’s an extra track on the deluxe version of her latest album, but it’s clear her fans know it well nonetheless.
Obvious is not a word you’d use often when describing a Rihanna performance anyway. She manages to keep her fans guessing and clearly enjoys bucking trends and doing things her own way. Occasionally you do wish the show had a little more of the wow factor you’d find at most events in a venue like this. There’s not much in the way of dramatic lighting, big video screens, special effects or even a stage show. The all white stage is filled with super-accomplished musicians and backing singers, with only a few odd inflatable domes, that disappear almost as soon as they arrive, adding some extra details. A ceiling of tiled lighting lowers above the stage, very similar to one found at recent Kanye shows. It works pretty effectively but lacks that real dynamic edge.
Rihanna may not always be the best vocalist but tonight her voice is in fine form and, especially on the slower numbers, reminds you that she has natural talent behind all the raunch and provocativeness. She interacts regularly with her fans and seems genuinely taken aback at the response from her screaming audience, which must be around 80% female tonight.
As you’d expect there are multiple outfit changes throughout the 90 minute show. However some observers might be disappointed by how conservative most of these actually are. Rihanna’s reputation for showing more than a little skin doesn’t translate into tonight’s performance. Of course, that’s just fine and fits yet again into the unexpected element of this show. Each time she disappears from the stage for a costume change we are treated to a performance from her dancers who twist and writhe across the floor as we wait for RiRi to return.
The set is also littered with covers from the likes of Kanye, Drake and Jay-Z, but it’s her superb take on Tame Impala’s New Person, Same Old Mistakes that is one of the stand-out tracks of the night. Rihanna’s version is so close to the original but she still manages to make it sound all her own.
The second half of the show includes the big dance anthems before RiRi asks everyone to turn on their phone lights, making the arena sparkle beautifully for Diamonds. The show ends on another new song, Kiss It Better, and she bids us farewell. As the arena lights rise once more we leave feeling like there was something missing. The tunes were all there, Rihanna looked and sounded fantastic. But maybe the Anti-show was lacking something just a bit more special.
Love the Way You Lie (Part II)
Sex With Me
Pour It Up
Bitch Better Have My Money
Live Your Life
Run This Town
(JAY Z cover)
All of the Lights
(Kanye West cover)
We Found Love / How Deep Is Your Love
Where Have You Been
Same Ol’ Mistakes
(Tame Impala cover)
Love on the Brain
Kiss It Better
Review – Steve GerrardShare this :