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Concert Reviews:
Rihanna delivers substance, style at DTE

of the Oakland Press

Posted: Monday, August 23, 2010

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- The video screen message on Sunday night (Aug. 22) at the DTE Energy Music Theatre said "Welcome to Rihanna's world."

And in the guise of the Last Girl On Earth Tour, the Barbados-born pop star's first-ever headlining trek, it was a pretty wonderful place to be.

Currently sitting on top of the charts with her Eminem collaboration "Love the Way You Lie," Rihanna delivered a stage spectacle of Madonnaesque proportions, a theatrically inventive exposition with a musical component strong enough to hold its own amidst a non-stop blur of visual stimuli. These kinds of shows often wind up being something less than the sum of their parts, but in Rihanna's case everything carefully combined for as genuinely dazzling an experience as we've seen all summer -- or year, for that matter.

The only glitch was that after an unexplained 70-minute break following opener Ke$ha's spirited set, Rihanna and company -- an eight-member band and six dancers -- were pressed for time and actually had to cut three planned songs from Sunday's encore, jumping straight to the show-closing "Umbrella," and even then went a couple of minutes beyond DTE's 11 p.m. curfew.

But the near-sellout crowd was hardly wanting for anything by the end of the 18-song, 95-minute show. After a video introduction Rihanna started the night singing "Russian Roulette" atop a hydraulic platform, with lasers flashing overhead, and wearing a long black gown -- one of six looks she'd sport during the show -- that was encrusted with flashing red LED lights. That was about the only time she stood still, however, as the following series of production pieces packed more action than some artists script into an entire concert.

"Hard," for instance, found Rihanna stripping down to a pale unitard and strutting around the stage -- a kind of post-apocalyptic Best Buy TV section -- amidst dancers bearing pink guns before settling onto a pink tank turret that rose and pointed into the crowd. For "Shut Up and Drive" she sang atop a broken-down car, smacking it with a baseball bat while a live-action crash test dummy breakdanced in front of her. "Distburbia" featured three dancers, on stilts, as spider-like horrorshow creatures, and during "Rockstar 101" Rihanna mounted another platform that hoisted her into the air.

The music never got lost amidst the spectacle, however, and it was clear that Rihanna, unlike many of her pop chart compatriots, was singing live throughout the night. The show's quiet moments reaffirmed that; she, her guitarists and backup singers huddled onto the tank turret again for a melodic renditions of "Hate That I Love You," while Rihanna delivered "Unfaithful," "Stupid in Love" and "Te Amo" on a secondary stage-within-a-stage that looked like a tiny cabaret. And she sang "Take a Bow" seated on the front edge of the DTE stage, leading the crowd singalong through the choruses.

It was simply a pop show done right -- lots to see, lots to hear, plenty of substance to go with the style and a commanding performance by a star with genuine presence and a voice that itself was worth the price of admission. All of that made Rihanna's world a place we'd gladly visit again.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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