Amongst the jam-packed seething mass of young sexy humanity that made up the capacity crowd in Macau’s Cotai Arena, the sense of anticipation was palpable. Girls outnumbered boys 2 to 1. These were classy girls, mostly from Hong Kong, who had spent the day getting their hair, makeup and dress just right. They were playing their A-game. And they wanted their idol – Rihanna – to shine.
And there I was, courtesy of my good friends at SHFL entertaınment, standing right up the front – mere meters from the stage. I knew when Rihanna came out I would almost be able to touch her.
While I didn’t have the wide-eyed star struck adoration of the many 20-somethings around me, I was excited. This was no B or C-list celebrity – this was Rihanna! Arguably the most influential performing artist of the first decade of the new century, Rihanna’s sales eclipse 120 million singles and 30 million albums. She holds six Grammys, and as one of the world’s absolute top-tier celebrities her every move is fodder for tabloids and magazines the world over. She earns somewhere around US$1 million a week, and at the tender age of 25 has had no less than 12 (count them – twelve!) number one singles. As I waited, and the “Rihanna! Rihanna!” chant went up from the crowd, I imagined friends of the future listening wide-eyed to my tale of a balmy September night back in 2013 when a Cotai Arena crammed to the hilt was blown away by a true A-list superstar.
Sadly, it was not to be.
The first let down appeared just seconds into the show when it became obvious Rihanna was lip-syncing – and doing a bad job at that. I felt cheated. This performer held a voice renowned the world over! It was perfectly summed up by a fellow show-goer who asked, “Are we actually going to hear her sing tonight?” To be sure there were times during the show when she wasn’t lip-syncing, but they were the exception not the rule, and she was simply weak during those times.
Her voice wasn’t up to it, fading away more than once mid-song to the point Rihanna sometimes grimaced at herself in frustration. She even walked off-stage for extended periods. One of my friends – a young die-hard Rihanna fan – summed it up with a plaintive plea, “I just wanna see her ace a song”.
Most of the young crowd was so emotionally committed to the show being awesome their discontent wasn’t overt, but there was definitely conflict in their hearts. Part of them desperately wanted her to succeed, but deep down they knew this was a sub-standard performance that dashed their expectations, ruining what they hoped would be a night to remember.
And what is with this new hair? Yes, it’s that ’80s icon – the mullet! Rihanna has ruined her hair by shaving the sides of her head like a US Marine and letting the back grow, either naturally and/or with extensions, to a length that would make any 1980s mullet wearer proud.
An important element of any stage show is costume. I was expecting daring and sexy dresses to make my eyes pop out. Instead – we got just one outfit all night, something you might wear lounging around the house – an oversized white-with-gray-smudges US football jersey-inspired T-shirt thingy, complete with number 39 printed on it, with matching white-with-gray-smudges skorts. “What are skorts?” I hear you ask. Well, they’re kind of a cross between super short shorts and a mini-skirt – but not in a sexy or classy way, in more of an in-your-face full frontal way. They didn’t even fit her well. And Rihanna’s incessant grabbing and stroking of her crotch in the first half of the show did nothing to distract from the fact she simply couldn’t dance.
The drug rumors surrounding Rihanna are well documented, and she did nothing last night to dispel those rumors. At times she hunched over awkwardly, almost struggling to stand – these were hardly the polished moves expected of a superstar who right now should be at the absolute height of her live performing prowess.
Rihanna did manage to get the crowd back a little in the second half of the show, when she pulled big numbers like “What’s My Name?” and “Only Girl (in the World)” out of the bag, and the wonderfully catchy “Don’t Stop the Music” had the crowd dancing in their seats – but more because of the grand occasion and the desire to have a great night than Rihanna’s performance.
Rihanna finished the night with a less-than-impressive rendition of the song that inspired the name of her world tour – “Diamonds“.
There were no grand entrances or exits, no jaw-dropping dance moves and no flashy pyrotechnics or visual effects – unless you count a handful of tired green laser lights and eight fire-burners not much larger than those you can see sticking out of champagne bottles if you go clubbing on any given Saturday.
As I endured the long wait to catch a cab at the end of the evening (and rued my earlier decision to send the driver home!) I overhead a 20-something boy discussing the show with a 20-something girl he had just met in the taxi line. He tentatively asked her opinion of the show, and received a damning indictment from a fan smack bang in the middle of Rihanna’s demographic, “I thought it was shit!”
Sadly, I was left wondering if Rihanna is headed down the same path as another superstar with incredible talent wasted – Whitney Houston. It may not be too long before this diamond is no longer shining bright in the sky.
|Rihanna Diamonds World Tour
|Cotai Arena at Venetian Macao
Friday 13 September 2013