Saturday Night: Rihanna At Toyota Center
Don't stop the
music photos in our slideshow.
It may be cutting against the grain to say this, but Rihanna may be the most transgressive pop star out there right now. She can do spectacle just fine - can she ever - but she doesn't need a meat dress or spark-shooting bra to get her point across.
The message is hardly new, but among the Brits and Katys and Ke$has and Beyonces of the world, Aftermath has seldom seen it delivered more convincingly or with more panache than Rihanna did Saturday: Treat her right, and she'll show you a good time. Step out of line, and there's gonna be hell to pay.
If you're lucky, the get-to-steppin' notice will come as sweetly as main-set closer "Take a Bow," which she sang seated on the edge of the stage, the finality of lyrics like "the award for best liar goes to you" coated in girl-next-door honey.
If not, duck. No umbrella in the world could shield you from her wrath.
"Breakin' Dishes," for example, was one of the highlights of Saturday's show, but the high-energy choreography and fist-pumping dance pop covered up a woman on a serious tear: Besides throwing plates, the heroine is celebrating the end of her affair with some tomcat who stayed out until 3:30 one too many times by building a bonfire of his clothes, and she "ain't gon' stop until I see police lights."
It would have been a return visit. The sirens had already showed up once during "Man Down," a fierce bit of reggae in the pistol-packing tradition of The Harder They Come (and echoed later in the overtly sexual dancehall grind of "Rude Boy"). Even if this particular shooting was accidental, it probably could have been avoided: "If you play me for a fool, I will lose my cool."
But Rihanna can also acknowledge her own fallibility in the lovegame, which has given the 23-year-old some of her best material to date. Saturday these songs needed none of the production-number props of her dance-floor calls to arms, but those were pretty damned impressive too, so here's a taste: