Two Mondays ago I was pleasantly surprised when I ended up with two free tickets to see Rihanna at the O2 academy in Brixton (formerly known as the Brixton Academy). The Barbadian singer, 21, was launching the new Nokia X6 whilst promoting her new album ‘Rated R.’
At first I was caught a little off guard by the title as I assumed that she was doing a Britney by transforming into raunch and risqué. Fortunately my theory was proven wrong when I found out that R actually stands for ‘Rihanna’ and not ‘restricted’ making the whole thing personal and still accessible- It’s amazing how one title can change everything.
I was given free tickets from GQ magazine , a gift that makes work experience that little bit more worthwhile, and so the whole thing was exciting and new, especially as I had no idea what the gig was about and why. I hadn’t heard that Rihanna was in town, let alone Brixton. So expecting a low key gig with obsessed fans, I was confused when I spotted people such as Tiana Benjamin (Chelsea from Eastenders) and various people from Hollyoaks. On top of that, everyone looked quite trendy and cool (not the screaming 15 year old fans I was expecting) and walked around with graceful purpose. I later found out that the launch was actually quite intimate and had only invited press, celebs and competition winners.
Brixton academy is one of those places which are great for vertically challenged people like myself. Being a petite girl it is quite easy for larger people to stomp on me as if I were a mere annoying obstacle. However, the gradual slope allows everyone adequate views of the stage making the room even more intimate. The last time I went to the academy I actually saw Sean Paul – so still in my teens I was unashamedly a screaming kid. However, when the lights flashed and the music started pumping the inner fan raised hell and I was back to being the 15 year old fan that I had frowned upon in disdain.
For such a tiny body, Rihanna had never been so magnificent. Equipped with eye mask, studded leather leotard, fishnets and killer heels, this was the transformation we were all waiting for. I was experiencing a Rihanna flashback from ‘pon de replay’ where the young girl wore baggy denim and a zip up hoody. I was now gaping at this self confident glamorous siren who even though being two years younger than me, in all stardom made me look like a child.
In an interview with MTV, the Barbadian described her album: ‘It’s super fearless – which is exactly what I feel right now. I am in a really good place.’ As we all know, in Rihanna’s case, a dose of self motivation is exactly what the doctor ordered after she was assaulted by her ex-boyfriend Chris Brown. This being her first show after the very public affair, she came out gutsy, strong and emotional, giving us her own personal comeback performance. I was reminded about the time when Kylie Minogue’s ‘Showgirl’ tour was postponed due to her illness. The miniature singer reinvented her performance, her style, and rocked the stage with Dolce and Gabanna boxing gloves showing us all that she had been through s**t but had come back fighting. Rihanna evidently did the same and this was not only apparent in her appearance but in her music too: “I put everything I’ve wanted to say for the past eight months into my music. The songs are really personal.’’
She kicked off with two songs from her new album, ‘Wait Your Turn’ and ‘Russian Roulette,’ the latter being performed on Sunday night in X factor.
Co-producer of the song Chuck Harmony recently told MTV:
“Russian Roulette, to me, is a shining example of her growth and her artistic expression, it is definitely taking her to another level. I think she’s a pop icon, so her music should reflect that.”
Comparing Rihanna to someone as versatile as Madonna illustrates the nature of a great pop star. Someone who understands the balance between her fans and her individuality will undoubtedly go far. Rihanna’s gig was not only compiled of songs from her new album but unlike so many other singers who promote their new music, she included her old stuff that we could sing along to. This included ‘Disurbia’, ‘Take a Bow’, ‘Live your Life’ and ‘Run This Town’ and ‘Umbrella’. Her sound was mellower and as the BBC described as ‘slow-burning.’ However, resonances of the much loved singer are definitely still there and it is this mix between old and new which can creates something to scream about. ‘Rated R’ shows the maturation of the artist but the talent lies in keeping the tone that the fans adore and Rihanna executed that marvellously.
45 minutes is short for a concert, but the intensity of her performance made it all worthwhile. The songs were filled to the brim with drama and emotion making the whole thing extremely honest. Even though her new album is comparably darker than the previous, I felt closer to the real Rihanna than I ever have before.
Jay Z made a surprise appearance and joined Rihanna in ‘Run This Town’ and ‘Umbrella.’
I kid you not, people actually put up umbrellas when she sung ‘Umbrella’. Cheesy, but if you can’t beat them, join them.