Here’s a prediction: Rihanna’s transformation from bashful island girl to pop superstar will be complete by the time she wraps up the 2011 edition of her Loud tour later this year. How come? Because Wednesday’s concert at Scotiabank Place, just four shows into the worldwide excursion, was a spectacle worthy of a true diva.
After a futuristic opening segment that involved four large circular screens, the leggy Rihanna emerged from a sphere in a bright blue mini coat that provided a striking contrast against her mane of red curls. The first song, Only Girl (In the World), isn’t her strongest but with all the activity on stage, it hardly mattered. The four round screens were like highly engineered moons rising over the stage, plus there was a vast screen backdrop, a conveyor belt across the front of the stage, and a hole that swallowed her up for costume changes. Beneath the ridiculous amount of staging were the musicians and singers of her band.
The Barbados-born singer cruised through the songs Disturbia, Shut Up and Drive and Man Down, which didn’t have nearly as much of an impact as the controversial video in which Rihanna murders the man who assaulted her. The proceedings took a masculine edge when Rihanna emerged in trousers and tux, prodding her dancers with a cane. That led to the raunchy choreography of S&M, a tune so catchy that you can’t help but sing along to the line, “Whips and chains excite me.”
Things got even steamier during the slow jam of Skin, first because of Rihanna’s solo pelvic thrusting, but then she invited a female fan from one of the special sections of seats on stage to join her in the spotlight. It must have been a surprise to the woman when Rihanna straddled her and started humping.
Reappearing on a pink tank with dancers in combat gear, the singer was the commander of a military invasion for the next couple of songs, Raining Men and Hard. There was no discernible social message to the army theme; it looked like Rihanna was simply having fun.
Of course, when the artist has fun, so does the crowd. There were close to 12,000 fans in the stadium, mostly young, female and dressed in short shorts. For them, Rihanna’s concert was pure escapism, a hands-in-theair party on a hot summer night.
The fast-rising crossover rapper B. O. B delivered a generous opening set that found him working hard to entertain the crowd, and his efforts paid off. Backed by a full rock band and three backing vocalists, the Atlanta-based artist fired out his rhymes and bounced back and forth across the stage, keeping the energy level high. The crowd lapped up his mix of rock, rap, soul, funk and R&B, squealing appreciation and singing along, especially for an extended version of his big single, Airplanes. No doubt, Bobby Ray Simmons, Jr. definitely made some fans in Ottawa.
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