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Concert Reviews:
Rihanna's Diamonds don't shine at Joe Louis Arena

For Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Friday, March 22, 2013

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DETROIT -- A couple of times on Thursday night, March 21, Rihanna told her fans at Joe Louis Arena that "I'll never forget this night."

The same may not be true for the audience, however.

The multi-platinum Barbadian singer's 100-minute show was, in fact, a fairly forgettable display, although visually tricked-out with an abundance of video screens, lasers, fire pots, shifting stage set-ups and seven costume changes -- a middling and bloodless romp through her hits, with an expected emphasis on her latest album, 2012's "Unapologetic." It had little of the whip-smart originality of her 2010 Last Girl On Earth Tour or the 2011 Loud Tour; instead, the Diamonds World Tour show felt rote, as if Rihanna was ceding the spectacle to Madonna and the physical daring and freshness to P!nk, whose stop earlier this month at the Palace of Auburn Hills set a bold new standard for pop divas on stage.

Though opening act A$AP Rocky a no-show due to illness, Rihanna still started relatively late (about 9:50 p.m.) and didn't exactly get things off to a strong start. The show's first segment was a lurching hodgepodge of seven songs, starting with a brief "Mother Mary" -- a black-robed Rihanna kneeling on a pillow at the front of the stage -- before she and her eight dancers worked through tepidly choreographed, electro-tinged club bangers such as "Phresh Out the Runway," "Birthday Cake" and "Talk That Talk," never quite getting into a commanding groove.

A second section that focused on her reggae-flavored material -- including "You Da One," "Man Down," "No Love Allowed" and "Rude Boy" -- was addled by a sonic sameness, even with Nuno Bettencourt of Extreme, whose guitar was buried in the bass-heavy mix, playing some intriguing licks and accents. There were moments were the show took on more life, including "Jump," "Umbrella," "Rockstar 101" (despite an incongruous slasher movie-style video accompaniment) and "All of the Lights," but Rihanna's impassive expression spoke volumes about show stiff things seemed. It wasn't until the final segment, when Rihanna -- who made no mention of her tour buses being stopped for marijuana possession Wednesday, March 20, at the Ambassador Bridge -- led the ensemble confidently through favorites such as "We Found Love," "S&M," "Only Girl (in the World)," "Don't Stop the Music" and "Where Have You Been," that the concert started to catch real fire.

The encores, meanwhile, found Rihanna in torch mode, belting out "Stay" and "Diamonds" for powerful conclusion -- but unfortunately too late to salvage a show that, unlike her previous headlining shows, offered little to remember.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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