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Concert Reviews:
Rihanna plays it Loud -- and proud -- at the Palace

of the Oakland Press

Posted: Wednesday, June 15, 2011

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AUBURN HILLS -- Because her August 2010 concert at the DTE Energy Music Theatre nearly sold out, Rihanna told the crowd at the Palace on Tuesday night (June 14) that "we had to come back."

And while not quite as many fans returned -- ticket sales were light enough to merit a Groupon deal -- Rihanna delivered another knockout of a show with her Loud Tour stop living up to its name with both volume and visual spectacle across its hour and 50 minutes.

Like last year's Last Girl On Earth Tour, Tuesday's Loud show followed the Janet Jackson/Madonna model of mixing pop and provocation -- along with fill-tilt ensemble choreography but with the twist of Rihanna's own sly wit. Yes, she knows how to go over the top with her forebears, but while the staging of something like "S&M," for instance, began with a unitard-wearing Rihanna chained to a platform at center stage, it eventually incorporated dancer's arms popping out of the surface like Thing from "The Addams Family" and wound up in a pillow fight rather than an orgy.

Rihanna kept it PG-13, in other words, but in as cool and clever a way as imaginable.

Tuesday's included many of the elements Rihanna rolled out for the Last Girl On Earth tour, including the smoke-billowing pink tank turret during the military-themed "Hard" and the partial car body and dancing crash test dummy for "Shut Up and Drive." The 22-song set included a generous selection from last November's "Loud" album -- including hits such as "Only Girl (In the World)," "S&M," "California King Bed" and "What's My Name?," her collaboration with recently acknowledged boyfriend Drake -- while 2007's "Good Girl Gone Bad" was the show's other primary source. But Rihanna also reached back for "Let Me" from her 2005 debut "Music of the Sun" and the torchy unfaithful from its successor, 2006's "A Girl Like Me."

Sporting 10 different looks throughout the night, Rihanna made her way to a second stage near the soundboard (and a special VIP seating area) for her rendition of "Run This Town" (with Jay-Z on video) and quickly returned to the main stage for T.I.'s "Live Your Life." She also ventured back into the seats, briefly, during "Please Don't Stop the Music." And while local hero Eminem did not show up for "Love the Way You Lie," it was still one of the show's highlight as Rihanna sang it while leaning on a white grand piano suspended on a platform above the stage.

By the time she got to the show-closing "Umbrella" and its predictable shower of confetti, Rihanna was again triumphant, proving that having a body of solid musical material -- played with energetic oomph by a crack five-piece band -- only enhances even the most flamboyant of shows. She had every reason to be Loud...and proud.

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