By Michael Cerio
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Before it’s all said and done, Rihanna is sure to go on a tour celebrating her fourteen and counting number one singles. The “Work” singer leapt over MJ this year in that category – rare air and an impressive decade of well, work.
This is not that tour.
As the ANTI World Tour wafted into the Wells Fargo Center, the focus was very much the singer’s eighth studio album – performing eleven songs off the looser, confessional, THC-soaked ANTI – which stumbled into the public’s ears in February.
Sure, RiRi served up dance floor bangers as well with performances of “Rude Boy,” “Diamonds,” and a medley of her guest spot smashes (“Live Your Life”/”All Of The Lights”/”Run This Town”) – but the night was very much a celebration of ANTI, and in turn a more personal experience.
Before Rihanna took the stage, the crowd got primed with an electric shot of Travis Scott. Rihanna’s rumored boyfriend sprinted into a section of the crowd during his performance of “3500,” only to top himself seconds later, sprinting from each end of the stage during “Antidote” in a manner so furious he fell off the front. Held up, he delivered one last rapid-fire rhyme before racing off behind the stage to close the set.
As the lights dimmed and the piano of “Stay” echoed through the Wells Fargo Center, all eyes were trained on the stage for the arrival of Rihanna. Surprising nearly everyone, the singer emerged on a lit riser high above the crowd at the other end of the arena. After belting out the emotional track, Rihanna removed the hood from her cape (lots of capes on this tour) and looked around the audience with thankful hands clasped.
A clear transparent bridge would appear to shuttle Rihanna from her riser to the stage, as she dropped sensually along the railing while singing “Woo” and “Sex With Me” – both off ANTI. Once firmly planted on the off-white stage, flanked by dancers she moved through “Numb” and “Pour It Up.”
The best choreography was always reserved for her partners on stage as RiRi moved very deliberately and lasciviously. Compared to the surgical precision of artists like Beyoncé, the “B*tch Better Have My Money” singer appeared looser as she weaved her way through stage configurations and slices of ANTI. With a room full of people exploding as each song started, Rihanna seemed effortless and intimate.
“Philly, what the **** is up?” she asked the crowd who responded with deafening approval. “Thank you for showing up as your true selves tonight, the Philly I’ve been waiting on.”
After moving through a few of her guest appearance hits, she took it back to “Umbrella” with great joy and thankfulness plastered across her face, wearing a sheer and see-through shimmering body stocking. “Who’s got ANTI?” she asked the crowd. “Who stole that **** from the internet?” she continued with a smirk.
As she sang out ANTI favorite “Desperado,” it became clear the extra care and attention given to Rihanna’s latest batch of songs. Nowhere was this more obvious than the string of tunes that closed out the evening.
In front of a minimalist stage with foam cascading down the backdrop, Rihanna sang through the dark-synth of ANTI’s “Needed Me” and her Tame Impala cover of “Same Ol’ Mistakes” – now in her fourth outfit of the evening. As fans lit the arena with cell phone screens, she sang an impassioned rendition of “Diamonds.” However the night would end not on the thumping beat of a radio smash, but rather on the personal confessions of ANTI’s “Love On The Brain” and “Kiss It Better.”
As she thanked Philadelphia and the exit music played, Rihanna looked around the arena with graciousness, even taking time to sign a few autographs from people in the front rows. With that, the lights came up on the ANTI World Tour.