Rihanna epitomizes everything that a 21st century diva should be, and her current stage show for the Loud tour is the ultimate modern concert experience.
Last night at The Staples Center, she pulled out all the stops for the sold out crowd, keeping it on its feet for the two-hour set. With a giant video wall behind her split horizontally into two screens and four circular screens hanging from the ceiling, the set itself came to life during each and every one of her hits. Rihanna ruled every inch of that stage, flawlessly belting out each hook and dancing with the seductive swagger and style that remain her signature.
Rihanna kicked everything off with the propulsive stomp of Loud’s “Only Girl in the World”. Over a devilishly danceable beat, she smoothly slid through the verse just before the music broke and her vibrant vocals filled the entire Staples Center from floor to ceiling. Immediately, everyone in attendance began dancing and singing along, and they didn’t let up for the duration of the show.
“Disturbia” practically set the stage ablaze with incendiary moves from Rihanna and her backup dancers and that undeniable chorus. A whirling live guitar solo added a rock ‘n’ roll edge to “Shut Up and Drive” just before a car crash sample and sirens closed out the tune bombastically. Donning a sparkling bikini, neon pink boots, and her blowing blood red hair, Rihanna was the vision of a futuristic reggae goddess on “Man Down”, where tribal drums practically transported everyone to the Caribbean.
Exiting the stage, an entrancing video only mounted anticipation for Rihanna to hit the stage in a shiny Tuxedo in between two poles with a raised circle platform in front of her during “Darling Nikki”. Rihanna infused the song with a fresh attitude as she lithely circled the stage, giving the song a powerful gusto that could inspire Prince to write another Purple Rain. Another guitar lead fed right into “S&M” which shook the arena to its core. Chained between the poles by another dancer, Rihanna carried the song’s undeniably infectious hook beyond heaven and back as she emanated an enticing elegance. The theatrical bounce of “Let Me” showed another side of Rihanna; she’s got the kind of presence that makes for a star in multiple art forms and with each smile, she engaged the audience. She turned into a jazz seductress during “Skin” which ended with a lucky fan getting some special attention.
She performed “Run This Town” in the crowd after cranking out a drum jam, and then walking across the floor for a heavenly rendition of “Live Your Life”. Hearing Rihanna perform those Jay-Z and T.I. hits she’s featured on only further illuminated how crucial she is to pop culture right now. She gives each one of those tracks its memorable chorus and on stage she lifts them to new heights. “Hate That I Love You” was stripped down to just Rihanna and her guitar player on an acoustic, and once again her voice took over fantastically. “What’s My Name?” and “Cheers” kept the energy up before one final rhythmic explosion on “Please Don’t Stop the Music”.
At one point, she took a moment to thank the audience for the support. With a genuine smile, she exclaimed, “This is what I was meant to do. This is what I dreamed of doing”, and there was a real inspirational conviction to her words. Seeing the closing combo of “Love the Way You Lie (Pt. 2)” and “Umbrella” more than proved this is what she was “meant to do”.
Rihanna certainly nods to the pop legends of the past, but she’s paved her own lane for others to follow with timeless concerts like this one.
However, there will never be anything quite like getting Loud with Rihanna…