10 things we learned at rihanna's anti world tour
From its enormous rainbow-coloured glow-worm to Rihanna's pragmatic dipping low, this is what went down at the first of two nights of the ANTI tour at the LA Forum.
Disclaimer: I am what people fluent in millennial speak would describe as "here for Rihanna". When I say "here", I don't mean here tonight in the Forum in Inglewood, Los Angeles to watch Rihanna build Rome in a matter of 90 minutes on a set that initially resembles the foundations of the Colisseum. (Spoiler: she does this exquisitely, always in Manolo Blahnik heels, the length of which are overshadowed by her talons - long, fierce and capable of clawing a thousand gladiators). I mean that I am "here for Rihanna" on the planet Earth, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I like to think I am under the stoned yet watchful gaze of Robyn Fenty (affectionately 'Riri') whenever I go to sleep at night and she is out on the prowl with her Barbadian sisters making sure someone is fucking things up a bitch. I am "here for Rihanna" because I can think of zero occasions when you could present me with an Instagram video of Rihanna, or an ad campaign starring Rihanna, or a sock that Rihanna has designed and subsequently made a bong out of, and I'd find that thing to be anything less than a pleasurable break in this journey called life. Let's be real for a second. The problem with this year's Met Gala, which occurred the night before this evening here at the Forum, was huge and singular: Rihanna was not there.
Because I am here for Rihanna you can trust me when I say that the ANTI World Tour, which debuted in March, and is residing in Los Angeles for two nights, is Rihanna's best ever tour. I have no agenda, I love everything Rihanna, and I am prepared to say that I love some things Rihanna more than I love other things Rihanna. But having seen Rihanna do many tours in many places, around many parts of the world, at outdoors festivals, inside comparatively tiny halls (holler at my fellow Kentish Town Forum crowd!), and at world class arenas, I tell you this with objective subjectivity: ANTI is Peak Rihanna. ANTI is Rihanna on a Michael Jackson Dangerous level. ANTI is America on a NASA Moon Landing level. If we are constantly experiencing the history of human civilisation, ANTI is the moment Rihanna becomes recognised as a creature more evolved than the homo sapien.
The thing that is so great about the ANTI World Tour is the amount there is to learn about Rihanna, despite all the wondrous things we already know. She's been off the road for two years, she announced this tour before she even released the album ANTI, so clearly it was a vision of both sound and sight. And my, what a sight. Here are 10 things I learned while my retinas bathed in its glory…
1. The pronunciation of ANTI has now been confirmed
It's ANT-EYE, not ANT-TEA. That's how Rihanna says it. That's how we should all say it. It's her album title after all.
2. Rihanna has bought a far better alarm clock in the time since we last met her…
Rihanna is always late, we are always waiting for Rihanna because we are subordinate to her and this is one of the many laws of the universe. It would also be truly disappointing if Rihanna ever arrived on time because then there'd be nothing to look forward to while we chew threw an entire pack of gum for hours or get so blind drunk we forget what we came for. Tonight, Rihanna arrives at 9:37pm, which is only 37 minutes behind schedule. Actually not too bad for Rihanna tardiness. I once waited 90 minutes for her to come at the O2 in London, and when she came on she didn't look like she wanted to be there at all. ANTI World Tour, though… Eager beaver.
3. However, she still knows how to rock the fashionably late look…
In a dressing gown/onesie. She arrives from a side door onto a raised square platform opposite the stage to begin proceedings with the powerhouse vocals of Stay. Stay! Who opens a World Tour with a slow-burning ballad that once featured Mikky Ekko and then follows it up with another slow-burning ballad called Love The Way You Lie that once featured Eminem? It's lunacy, and yet it works because when Rihanna starts the party in her robe with her hood up, anything faster than a piano-led slow dance would be aggressive, quite frankly.
4. Sex with Rihanna is so amazing
Well, we don't know for sure but… when she performs the song Sex and these lyrics from ANTI, she moves from said aforementioned platform to the main stage via a runway descended in mid-air. It's more of a travellator, like one you'd see at LAX, which is just round the corner from here. "Los Angeles, what the fuck is up!" she says, most pleased. LAX would do well to note this welcoming message, and have it installed on a screen with Rihanna's face to greet you before you arrive at the Immigration Hall for passport inspection. Obama would be down with this. I haven't checked but really there is no need.
5. Rihanna enjoys a bit of a natter these days
Onstage, the woman has become the definition of verbose. Highlights include:
- "Haha! Oh shit, LA I've been waiting for y'all, you know that? Y'all ready to play with your girl?" she says, referring to herself - our girl, Rihanna.
- "Who's saucy?!" - short and sweet and also available for purchase on t-shirts at the merchandise stand for a cool $25.
- "If you see anyone sat down texting their baby mamas and shit, I want you to turn to them and say: IT'S PARTY TIME." Everyone stops texting. Nobody knows what a phone is any more. Phones are over.
- "LA, how many of y'all bought the album? How many of y'all stole that shit off the internet? You for sure!" She says this last bit directly at a man in the front row. Nobody has seen him since.
- "I wanna thank the guys who made the soap!" Thanking her whole team and crew, Rihanna finally thanks the team of men she employs to transport and set up the vertical bubble bath that accompanies transcendent performances of Diamonds and Kiss It Better that - quite literally - wash over you as though you're steeped in a Radox/champagne-soaked jacuzzi. Give it up for the soap dudes, guys.
6. Dipping low is actually a pragmatic dance move
Rihanna used to be renowned for not being able to dance. Now she can school a Cobra. Rihanna is particularly au fait with any move that involves descending closer to sea level. At one convenient point during the Strip club run-through of Cake, Pour It Up and Numb, Rihanna works her body down to the ground, and her water bottle for a quick rehydration moment. A reminder that she is also human and needs fluids.
7. But don't get too encouraged by her dancing. Case in point: 'Desperado'
For this particular ANTI highlight, Rihanna is completely lost in the music, her hair is all up in her face, her arms are all up in her hair, she's basically me performing The Killers' Mr Brightside in the centre of a circle of friends at 3am, six Vodka Redbulls deep. Except Rihanna is doing it in front of 17,000 people.
8. Rihanna should open the Olympics
For a balearic rave segment which takes in Take Care, Where Have You Been and a mix of Calvin Harris's How Deep Is Your Love with We Found Love (still to this day the best song you can ever see performed live in any festival field - come on Glastonbury!), Rihanna has an enormous rainbow-coloured glow-worm installed on the stage, which is accessorised by a duo of gymnast dancers who would leave China's Rio team shaking in their leotards. If Rihanna is not booked on a flight to Rio to headline the opening ceremony, let's call Sebastian Coe. Now.
9. Rihanna has done a lot of songs you forget are Rihanna songs because they are technically other people's…
T.I.'s Live Your Life, Jay Z's Run This Town, Kanye West's All Of The Lights, Calvin Harris's We Found Love, the Tame Impala one she's acquired as her own. None of these guys are here so Rihanna does them all by herself, negating the need for any dudes to ever be on any songs ever. Oh, and you can - and should - bump and grind to Tame Impala, by the way. Dressed head to toe in cashmere, naturally.
10. The ANTI World Tour may as well be the Rihanna Greatest Hits Tour That Never Dies
There are particular classics Rihanna is really feeling tonight: Rudeboy, Diamonds, Man Down, Bitch Better Have My Money (at more than a year old that is definitely old enough to qualify as a "classic" in Rihanna terms). But the biggest cheer of the night comes for Work which has insta-classic written all over it. Note that Rihanna doesn't need -- or even do -- deep cuts because a) she doesn't have any - literally every album is an era of hits; and b) she hasn't got time to do every hit as it is, playing a set so strong it can afford to forego Breakin' Dishes, S&M, Disturbia, Don't Stop The Music, What's My Name, Russian Roulette, SOS and - how could she - Pon De Replay. We must accept that nothing lasts forever, though.
Which brings me nicely to a close. Rihanna's future Greatest Hits Tour. See you there?
Text Eve Barlow
Image via rihannanow.com