Singer/songwriter/shade-thrower Rihanna tore the roof off Rogers Arena last night with a killer show that featured big hits and even bigger vocals.
It’s almost unheard of for a female pop star to open a show with a pair of ballads, but Rihanna’s brand new Anti Tour is literally the “anti-tour” – it’s more of a slow burn than a spectacle.
After an unremarkable opening set by Travi$ Scott, Rihanna, dressed in a hooded white robe and bathed in white lights, began the show at the back of the arena singing “Stay” from 2012’s Unapologetic. Next was a stripped-down version of “Love The Way You Lie,” her duet with rap superstar Eminem. The Slim Shady wasn’t there to trade verses with the slim lady, but Rihanna did just fine on her own.
Her stage was simple, the choreography was relaxed, and dialogue was kept to a minimum with the exception of a couple of “what the fuck is up, Vancouver?” queries.The focus last night was squarely on the music, and with good reason: Rihanna’s latest album Anti is arguably her best yet and the singer was eager to show off her new material.
More than half Anti made the cut last night, including “Same Ol’ Mistakes” (a cover of the Tame Impala song) and “Desperado” (not a cover of the Eagles’ song). The Barbadian badass also did a solo take on new song “FourFiveSeconds,” her superstar collaboration with Paul McCartney and Kanye West. Sir Paul performed his own stellar version of the song at his Vancouver concert earlier this week but Rihanna did it better. And in Manolo Blahnik moonboots, to boot.
With so many new songs to get through in a 90-minute window, the diva’s hugely successful back catalogue was largely ignored. Pop anthems like “Disturbia” and “Pon De Replay” were skipped, while others, like “All of the Lights” and “Run This Town,” were performed in snippets. But none of that mattered to her Vancouver fans last night, who cheered just as loudly for new single “Needed Me” as they did for 2007’s “Umbrella.”
Rihanna was clearly happy with the vibe in the venue: “That means I’m not fucking this shit up for you guys,” she said.
The party continued with dance floor stompers “Work” and “Where Have You Been,” with instructions from the singer to “call the ass out” of anyone in the arena who remained seated. She then hilariously bitched out some Facebooking fans in the front row, saying “you three girls texting right here in the front – it’s party time!”
With the exception of some salty language and some NSFWWWWW (Not Safe For Work Work Work Work Work) crotch grabs, Rihanna’s show had more of a PG-13 feel than her last couple of tours did. About halfway through the concert I began to wonder if the “good girl gone bad” had decided to go good again, but after the deliciously inappropriate “Bitch Better Have My Money” I have my doubts.
The singer closed the show with another pair of ballads, sounding lovely on “Kiss It Better” and “Love On The Brain.”