All words: Robb Scott
All Photos: Kevin Carroll
Fans took the Twitter hash-tag (#getLOUD) quite literally as Rihanna kicked off her LOUD Tour at the 1st Mariner Arena in Baltimore. A friendly disclaimer: I am indeed a Stan, but my judgments will remain as objective as possible.
Opening for the little lady from Barbados were rapper J Cole and soul-man Cee Lo Green. As for openers go, they were both underwhelming choices considering last summer’s tour being with Ke$ha (no grand leap in talent, but in terms of popularity she’s a bit further ahead).
J Cole seemed like a smaller venue worthy act thrown into an arena, but he didn’t allow it to affect his performance. Pandering to his female fans as he moved about across the stage; he played the part well as an opener, getting the crowd pumped as we flooded in to take our seats.
On the other side of the coin, Cee Lo also seemed like a guppy in a very large pond with what he had to offer. Accompanied by two scantily clad women, the big guy didn’t do much besides stand there and wipe the sweat from his forehead. I wasn’t expecting him to do much, but a little energy would have been appreciated. His two “dancers” provided the action—doing splits, booty-popping, and at one point, prancing around the stage like Black Swans.
The crowd was pretty subdued during his set; not until “Crazy” and “Forget You” came on did it seem like the light bulbs clicked for many people that, “Ohh, That’s Cee Lo!” Either way, we all were here for Rihanna; anything/anyone else was just unnecessary filler.
Wheeled out in a human-sized hamster ball by a crew of brightly colored dancers, Rihanna got the party started right away with the lead single from LOUD, “Only Girl (In the World).” As a fan, I like many others, at first sight, were taken by her beauty—she looked flawless.
Going into this show, my expectations weren’t set very high—the fact of the matter is, her voice isn’t all that strong, and unlike a Beyoncé or a Britney (of days past), she doesn’t dance. She relies on theatrics, much like a Britney (of days present); not a negative, considering she fully commits to delivering her flavor of stage-performing. For the amount of money spent on tickets for a show of her caliber, and the amount of time she’s been doing this, I’d expect her to have at least got around to learning to dance by now… it’s a part of being a pop star.
I was pleasantly surprised by the selection of songs for her set—I went in believing that I would be simply hearing her most recent album live, as her albums aren’t really cohesive enough to flow between albums on a tour. This not being the case, Rihanna took a very tough sexy journey with her choices. Songs like “Disturbia,” “Breakin’ Dishes” and a serious throwback to the first album with “Let Me,” she provided enough excitement and pleasure for fans from day one, to the more recent ones.
The mood definitely took a 180 as she closed, fittingly, with “Take A Bow”—she opted to forgo the band and sit intimately at the edge of the stage for this one. Where her voice was drowned out during most of the set, it was evident that she was trying to show off some vocal ability, and this was one of those moments. I give her kudos for not relying on the magic of lip-syncing; I’ll be willing to argue that she was being 80-90% authentic vocally.
With the various costume changes, mini-routines (i.e. the rehashing the choreography of her Billboard Music Awards and NBA All-Star Game performances), and her crowd interaction (namely one lucky fan getting a quick lap-dance from the singer), Rihanna put on a solid show. She’s not breaking any new ground stage performance wise, but she does have fun with it, and that’s what we as fans want to see.
- Only Girl (In the World)
- Shut Up and Drive
- Man Down
- Darling Nikki (Prince cover)
- Let Me
- Raining Men
- Breakin’ Dishes/The Glamorous Life (Sheila E cover)
- Run This Town
- Live Your Life
- Hate That I Love You
- California King Bed
- What’s My Name?/Touch Me, Tease Me (HitSquad cover)
- Rude Boy
- Cheers (Drink to That)
- Take A Bow
- Love the Way You Lie (Part II)