September 20, 2013
The concert time on the ticket was 8 pm, but it was only at around 8:30 that a pair of DJ's calling themselves GTA started to mix some house music. That was OK, mostly driving beats with occasional mixes of popular songs like "Better Off Alone", "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and "Otherside." But when it was going on and on for more than 40 minutes, it got too repetitive and boring already. They ended around 9:15 pm.
There was still no Rihanna for another hour after that. Even by that time, there were still a lot of expensive seats in the Patron and Lower Box still unoccupied. The Upper Box and General Admission though were pretty much full. The house lights of the MOA Arena were finally dimmed at around 10:15 pm. Honestly my daughter and I were pretty tired and sleepy already by that time. But when the crowd went wild with Rihanna's entrance and greeting, so did we get our energy back.
Her first few songs were only moderate hits like "Phresh Out the Runway", "Birthday Cake" (a controversial 2012 collaboration with Chris Brown, after their violent breakup), "Talk That Talk" (a 2012 collaboration with Jay-Z), "Pour It Up" (a recent Top 20 hit) and "Numb" (her 2011 collaboration with Eminem). The songs sounded familiar but we weren't really feeling the excitement. When she sang "You da One", the energy of the crowd picked up. This was followed by "Man Down" and the lively hit "Rude Boy." "What's My Name?", her duet with Drake, followed to the delight of the crowd.
The next bunch of songs were again not too familiar to me, "Jump," "Rockstar 101" and the ballad "What Now". Luckily her giant old hit "Umbrella" (VIDEO) was there for us to sing along to. The interpretation of "Umbrella" though felt lazy with hardly no choreography. That rendition was rather disappointing.
When she came out to sing a medley of the mid-tempo songs "Take a Bow / Cold Case Love", followed by "Hate That I Love You", the crowd again got excited. When the strains of the next song "We Found Love" the crowd went absolutely wild. That number alone made up for the lackluster first hour of the concert for me. From that time on, Rihanna never looked back. She launched into a series of big hits, "S&M" (VIDEO), "Only Girl (In the World)" , "Don't Stop the Music" and a very rousing "Where Have You Been" to end the main set.
The audience clamored for more. For her encores, she sang two big ballads, both recent big hits: the melodic "Stay" and then as the final song of the whole show, the song from where the tour got its name, "Diamonds." The whole show ended at about 11:30 pm or so, just about an hour and a half all in all.
Her dancing was just a lot of slinky moves with crotch grabs and other suggestive moves. She did not elaborate costume changes. She started in an all-white outfit, unbuttoned blouse top, inner tank top, culottes and sneakers. Then she would just vary this same ensemble around, until she just ended in a white tanga during her encore.
She did not sing her first hit song "Pon de Replay", her first Number 1 song "SOS", nor some of her memorable hits like "Unfaithful", Disturbia", "Rehab", "California King Bed" or even her latest single "Right Now." This lady really has a lot of hit singles in her career, it is not possible to perform them all in a concert.
It was also obvious when you look at the big screens that Rihanna was not really singing the whole time, as the singing continues even when she is not holding the microphone to her mouth. She must have been singing over a recording or a back-up singer that sounds exactly like her. For me the show was quite lukewarm for the first hour, until that fantastic final half hour that saved the whole concert from being one big expensive disappointment.
Postscript: I learned an important lesson about SM Tickets with this Rihanna concert. I bought these tickets on the very first day they were released by in April in order to get excellent seats, and we did. I made the mistake though of having the tickets printed out by SM Tickets back in late April when I had my Aerosmith tickets printed out for their May 2 concert. It turned out to be a mistake because the ink they used to print the tickets was already fading when I checked them out four months later.
SM Tickets would say they cannot do anything anymore. So today, luckily the bar code could still be read by the scanner at the gate, though it needed to be scanned more than once. The faded print also made determining our seats difficult, but in brighter light, the usher was able to read the seat numbers. Lesson is you can buy tickets online early, but only have the actual ticket printed out as the concert date approaches.