Good Girl Gone Trad

[Live] Rihanna, Sheffield Arena, 13th May 2010

The last time Rihanna toured these shores there was a little-known artist named Lady GaGa on the horizon, who had nothing to her name except a disco ball bra and a couple of yet-to-be-ubiquitous songs called Just Dance and Poker Face. Since then, she’s not only raised the bar for this kind of thing, she’s squatting on the bar and taking a glitter-dusted disco dump on the competition below. GaGa may not have invented asphyxi-wank chic, but she’s sure as hell become the industry standard.

In an attempt to strike back, Rihanna has allegedly based this show on the Charlton Heston film The Omega Man, the concept being that she is the Last Girl On Earth. Apart from her backing singers, of course. Starting with the slow-burning ballad Russian Roulette, she demonstrated more powerful vocals and a more conservative wardrobe than she’s usually given credit for. But no worry, as she soon launched into Hard, before taking it up a gear for an opening salvo of Shut Up And Drive, Fire Bomb and Disturbia, RiRi variously attacked a burnt-out car with a baseball bat, sexed it up with some breakdancing crash test dummies and straddled a pink cannon wearing an army helmet with Mickey Mouse ears. I don’t remember Chuck Heston doing any of these things, maybe it’s on the DVD extras.

After a strong start events took a turn for the turgid when she unveiled an acoustic rendition of fucking Wonderwall, no doubt in a nod to her mentor, Jay Z – that guy has a lot to answer for. I find there’s nothing more depressing than an R ‘n’ B act choosing to appropriate the very worst that white music has to offer. This was swiftly followed by the Topshop-rock stylings of Rockstar 101, with ex-Extreme star Nuno Bettencourt on fret-wanking duties and RiRi joining in on Flying V. This was probably the biggest problem with the show, a lot of songs were bludgeoned into submission by the muddy sound and rock reworking. The dancehall subtlety of Rude Boy got somewhat lost, although the obvious lyrical subtlety remained, aided by Rihanna’s coquettish microphone gesticulations (thrusting it between her crotch repeatedly.) Likewise the Tainted Love-sampling SOS, whilst still ace, ended up sounding closer to the turdulous Marilyn Manson cover. Whether this decision was made to reflect her new harder edge, or more cynically, to position herself between GaGa doing the disco and Beyonce doing the soul, I couldn’t say.

Fortunately songs like Breakin’ Dishes (an underrated classic in the RiRi canon) and Please Don’t Stop The Music were strong enough to withstand the plank-spanking assault. This segued into a cover of Sheila E’s The Glamorous Life, which saw Rihanna attack a drum solo with gusto, if not timing. Another nod to Oasis, I expect – this time, Tony McCarroll. After initially feeling about as comfortable as Nick Griffin at a Love Music, Hate Racism gig, by this point I was totally into it, despite some of her later outfits featuring more yards of tan stocking than the wardrobe department of Last Of The Summer Wine. The band then took a back seat for ballads such as Hate That I Love You and Take A Bow, which closed the main part of the show.

Returning to strut and bogle her way through Live Your Life and Run This Town, and to give a few more shout outs to [insert name of city here] this was all just killing time until Umbrella was finally unleashed. Ubiquity be damned, that song cannot be denied.

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One Response to “Good Girl Gone Trad”

  1. […] my moderately successful social experiment attending a Rihanna concert, I thought I may as well stand at the back being cynical about Lady Gaga too. My usual habitat is […]

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