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Concert Reviews:
Rihanna makes more with less at the Palace

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Saturday, March 26, 2016

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AUBURN HILLS -- It took Rihanna a little while to hit the stage, even after she started her show on Thursday night, March 24, at the Palace.

The Barbaduab-born hitmaker and Eminem duet partner began the ninth stop of her ANTI World Tour far from the main stage, entering from the side and mounting a tall platform set at the rear of the Palace floor. There the robed Rihanna sang a couple of songs -- "Stay" and "Love The Way You Lie (Part II")" -- before boarding a flying bridge that took her to the front of the arena, although she hung around above the crowd for yet another pair of songs, "Woo" and "Sex With Me," dancing back and forth along the structure.

It was an auspicious start to a stylish and sophisticated show, by far the least sexual, starkest and most mature of Rihanna's headlining productions. It was not without visual pizzazz, though, from the open, cubist stage covered in white fabric to a moving video/lighting screen that hung above the stage and a backdrop that oozed copious amounts of soap suds for the final third of the show.

If Rihanna was trying to make a case that the music matters this time out, it certainly worked. Though the 27-song set whizzed by in just under 90 minutes -- some of which Rihanna spent off stage changing into five muted, earth-toned costumes -- it still conveyed a substantial and potent body of work performed with more confidence than cockiness by Rihanna and her nine-piece band. Even the choreography, with six dancers alongside, was dialed down, leaving Rihanna plenty of time for live singing throughout the show.,

The focus was, not surprisingly, on her latest album "ANTI," with nine selections including the lead single "Work," her ace cover of Tame Impala's "Same Ol' Mistakes" and an extended, bluesy version of "Desperado." But Rihanna also covered ground from throughout her career, with club-style renditions of "We Found Love" and "Where Have You Been" as well as visits to her featured spots with Jay Z ("Run This Town"), T.I. ("Live Your LIfe") and an exuberant voice-and-guitar rendition of her Paul McCartney/Kanye West collaboration "FourFiveSeconds."

Rihanna was daring enough to end the encoreless show as it started -- not with bombast but with the slow jams "Love on the Brain" and "Kiss It Better." She can be as much of a pop/hip-hop/soul diva as the rest of her peers, but on Thursday Rihanna benefited from moderation as her creative calling card.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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