Tuesday 11th May 2010
Right now, the music industry really is all about the girls. Whether you love them or loathe them, there’s no doubt that the likes of Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Cheryl Cole, Pixie Lott, Florence and the Machine and Ke$ha are taking over, and Rihanna fits very snugly in this catergory. RiRi has come a long way since she first exploded onto the scene with Pon de Replay in 2005 (a single that got her all the way to number two in the UK singles charts and was a smash hit all over the world). Only 17 at the time, the song showcased none of her powerful vocal skills she has since developed, the video was horrendously lacking in the style that has today made her a fashion icon, and, most importantly, you didn’t get a sense of who Rihanna is. Make no mistake – this girl is not your typical pop princess, she’s wild, she’s dark, she’s rebellious, and she does whatever the hell she wants to and doesn’t give a toss about what you think about it.
On paper the line up was impressive, Rihanna would start at half nine, Pixie Lott and Tinie Tempah would be supporting beforehand. But, as I’ve experience every single time I’ve watched similar artists perform live (excluding the incredible Dizzee Rascal of course), Tinie just couldn’t live up to his rather excellent recorded work. Unfortunate really as he will be starring at our very own Summer Ball. However, compared to Pixe, even Tempah deserves a five star rating. Miss Lott’s pseudo-rock chick songs irritates me enough on record when (thanks to much hard work, not of her own) her singing is actually in tune, but in the live atmosphere it becomes something close to torture. She is dull to watch on stage, reaching her hand towards the crowd slowly, then kneeling down on stage to yowl her heart out, then getting up, walking to the other side of the stage and repeating the same routine, over and over and over. But, what annoys me most however is the fake rock-chick act. Rihanna (who is in no way considered a rock artist) has more rock attitude in her little finger than Pixie Lott’s had in her whole peroxide hair-swishing, fist pumping, guitar-crazy act.
Finally, on to the star of the show, Rihanna. It may come as a surprise to those who have seen her live performances on youtube, not only can Rihanna sing in tune, her voice is also compelling and powerful. Starting her set with the haunting Russian Roulette, RiRi showcased not only her vocal talents, but her love of fashion too, with a black dress covered in red LED lights that flashed in a pattern throughout the song. The set was comprised of all the big hits from her last two albums, as well as some of the lesser-known songs from her latest. Memorable moments included her performance of ‘Hard’ on top of a neon pink army tank, the mini-rave she and her dancers had inside a neon cube for ‘Please Don’t Stop the Music’, and the emotional ballads ‘Take a Bow’ and ‘Rehab’ where one look at her face clearly showed exactly who she was singing these songs about. Her costume changes ranged from Lady Gaga-esque leotards to big statement shoulders, asymmetrical body suits to gem studded FMBs, and her on-stage dancing, running, gesturing, kneeling and general behavior was at all times enthralling – she was clearly having fun and the crowd was having fun with her.
This concert provides evidence for a theory I have always supported – artists often excel either in the live atmosphere, or on record, rarely is anyone an expert at both. Tinie Tempah’s recorded material is quite simply huge, but live he was at best unmemorable, at worst a mess. Rihanna on the other hand is a captivating live performer (and boy does she put on a show) but I have always felt her music is rather lacking, and doesn’t quite capture what her live shows demonstrate so well – her completely fuck you attitude which makes her so interesting and endearing.