Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/4/2016 (490 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
On Sunday, Rihanna took the stage at one of the biggest music festivals in the world — Coachella — with one of the biggest DJs in the world — Calvin Harris. One day later, she is playing to a slightly smaller, albeit no less enthusiastic, crowd at MTS Centre.
But there, in California, she was only a guest, an addition to an already big-name musician. On her ANTI tour — supporting her eighth album of the same name -- Rihanna dominates as the one and only star of the show.
Making the most dramatic of entrances from the back of the arena to a platform over the sound booth, Rihanna, cloaked in a white robe, kicked off the night with monster-ballad Stay.
Rihanna (born Robyn Fenty) was last in Winnipeg March of 2013, when she was touring her previous release Unapologetic, and it seemed those sentiments have not changed as she strutted hard on a catwalk suspended over a crowd of drooling fans, making her way to the main stage with a series of drops, bends, thrusts and grinds as she belted, "Sex with me, so amazing," from the aptly titled, Sex With Me.
For all of Rihanna's extremeisms, the ANTI tour harbours a distinctly minimalist feel. Her clothing — stepping away from the leather-clad days of her past —embraced white, beige and other neutrals in simple but interesting styles. That was echoed the clean lines and futuristic feel of the all-white staging that played with both space and texture, with white inflated orbs lining the perimetre of the stage and raised platforms flanking the singer on either side.
Only 20 minutes in and the the 28-year-old Barbadian was ready for her first costume change of the night, returning in a beige body suit complete with hood, before charing into an abridged version of ANTI album-opener, Consideration. In fact, many of the songs performed were abridged versions — she blew through ten songs in less than 30 minutes, which marked the first time she took a very brief pause to talk to the crowd.
Vocally, Rihanna is neither astounding nor disappointing. She does what people expect her to do (with some help from a backing track every now and then), but it's no secret that it's not necessarily her voice that has made her a star. She is a stunning performer, to be sure, but much her performance lacked emotion and connection. Not that the crowd seemed to care, however — as the familiar riff of Umbrella reared its head, it's fair to wager not one person in attendance was underwhelmed.
As she neared the end of her 90-minute set, it seemed she had held out all the vocal highlights for the final few songs. Diamonds was stunning — fluffy suds trickled down a white sheet behind her, and thousands of cellphone flashlights pouring out in front of her, it was the purest moment of the night by far.
Love on The Brain offered perhaps her strongest vocals. The song tests her range on both ends, and Rihanna conquered it with ease. Ending things on the highest of notes, Rihanna closed with the sensual power-ballad Kiss It Better, before taking her final strides to either end of the stage, waving to her fans with a genuine smile plastered across her face. Finally the connection had been made, just in time for the curtain to fall.
Rapper Travis Scott of Houston (who has been romantically linked to Rihanna in the past) opened the show with a 40-minute set of high-energy, bass-heavy tracks which he performed in front of a Terminator-esque half-human, half-robot face and a collection of other sundry items including two cacti and a robot hand.
Scott, who was last in Winnipeg just five months ago on tour with the Weeknd, is an engaging performer and does his job as opener well — fans on the floor were on their feet from the moment he stepped on stage and jumping in the air not long after that. As he waded through the crowd in an electric moment near the end of his set, hands jutting out to touch him as if he is some kind of Messiah, it almost felt as if he genuinely meant it when he said, "Winnipeg, I swear to God this is special."