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Story By Billy Sparks
Though her accomplishments are unquestionably impressive, making fans wait until just before 10pm before she graced them with her presence was certainly patience trying (especially considering originally scheduled opener A$AP Rocky canceled due to illness and a DJ had the unenviable task of keeping things moving since 7:30). Once Rihanna did take the stage, she took her time settling into the groove with the somewhat unusual choice of "Mother Mary," a haunting ballad during which she pleaded with the crowd "let's live in the moment."
Follow-ups like hip-hop jams "Phresh Out The Runway" and "Talk That Talk" clearly were locked in the here and now, and even though they won't likely stand the test of time, both helped get the party in full swing and seemed to ease frustrations from her tardiness. Even so, it was apparent that Rihanna doesn't have the vocal chops of famous peers like Beyonce or Pink, and while a case of laryngitis earlier in the tour may have been a factor, even her records can't compare to those leading ladies.
In spite of those shortcomings, at least her songs are some of the most infectious on the radio today, and given the constant time on tour these last few years, she's grown increasingly comfortable in her superstar skin. A little later in the evening, those traits surfaced as she steamrolled through her hugest hits that turned the sold out arena into a steamy club (even if her timid steps were dwarfed by a much more seasoned cast of dancers). A series of calls and responses dominated "What's My Name?," the sugary sweet pop ditty "Umbrella" never sounded sweeter, while her top notch band (anchored by Extreme guitarist Nuno Bettencourt) helped ignite the throbbing "Jump."
Rihanna also stripped things down for a set of ballads, but considering she didn't have as many musical or visual frills to hide behind, her vocal limitations were even more obvious. Nonetheless, it was impossible not to sing along with the passionate pleas like "Love The Way You Lie (Part II)" "Take A Bow" and "Hate That I Love You," during which she wore her most tasteful red gown ensemble of the evening.
After the slower segment, the show reached a peak during a roof raising rendition of "We Found Love" (performed in the crowd) and a medley of perhaps her all time best dance floor fillers "S&M," "Only Girl (In The World)" and "Don't Stop The Music." As the night wound down with the tour's namesake single, Rihanna appeared the most collected and confident of the entire night, and with the audience's help singing along, at least she exited on a high note. In other words, Rihanna might not have always shined bright like a diamond, but when she did, the party roared like there was no tomorrow.
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