Rihanna – Brixton Academy, London – November 16th
The last time Rihanna did a headline show in London she was a global pop star in love with another pop star, Chris Brown. How times change. She’s recently admitted that she found it hard coping with the transformation of “going to bed as Rihanna and waking up as Britney Spears” in relation to her much-publicised domestic violence, but with the release of her fourth album Rated R due next week, she’s getting all the support she deserves with her return to the stage, with both her mentor Jay-Z and rapper Jeezy showing up on stage last night at Brixton’s 02 Academy for her Nokia-sponsored gig…
Rihanna appeared on stage a mere 15 minutes late to the tune of new album opener Madhouse which sounds like a Michael Jackson offcut from the mid-80s. Dressed in fishnets, a mask and black leotard with sparkles, she looked like she’d been taking fashion tips from Beyonce – apart from with her hair, which looked an alarming shade of ginger. Within minutes she was sitting in a white chair, glass of wine and burning cigarette beside her, singing new single Russian Roulette while the big screens around urged us to Tweet our thoughts. Er, you can’t smoke that in here perhaps? Rihanna has a screechingly large voice in her tiny frame, evidenced on the next track Please Don’t Stop The Music, which saw the Barbados native nearly dancing around the stage with her catsuit-attired backing singers ably doing the rest. The dancing took it out of Rihanna though, who could only sing two words without catching her breath but was clearly in the zone when it came to hair-flicking and slinking around the stage sexily. Note to Leona Lewis – watch Rihanna for a lesson in stage presence.
After thanking Nokia and asking us if we were ready to party, Rihanna launched into a stripped down version of Take A Bow, particularly poignant and London held its breath. Disturbia got the crowd rocking, but not as much as upbeat new track Hard, with Rihanna proving her rock chick credentials and Jeezy bringing some rapping muscle to the fore. But within seconds it was ‘Jeezy who?’ as he was magnificently upstaged by Jay-Z, joining Rihanna for Run This Town and Umbrella and whipping the crowd into a foaming mass of punching hands and brollies. With the audience by then in the palm of her hand, Rihanna brought the gig home in style as glitter cascaded from the heavens. After the year she’s had you only want Rihanna to do well and tonight she delivered – with a little help from her friends.