Image Credit: Jamie McCarthy/WireImage.comNew York’s Madison Square Garden was flooded with kids for pop starlet Rihanna’s Last Girl on Earth tour last night (August 12). And not “kids” as in teens, twenty-somethings, and tweens. I’m talking about children, little girls whose parents wouldn’t even think of allowing their little ones to strut out of their front doors in the kind outfits worn by the Thursday’s headliner.
It was an odd sight, peering over the arena and finding such an eclectic blend of youth: An eight-year-old girl with barrettes in her hair sitting next to a woman 17 years her elder, a flamboyant pair of men in blazers with jagged hairdos and cut-off denim shorts one row in front them. All were waiting intently for not only their sister in loud haircuts but also her stunningly grungy opening act, Ke$ha.
Looking as if she’d just dropped major dollars at a glam-rock garage sale, Ke$ha hit the stage in a tattered black Metallica t-shirt, super-short shorts, and leopard-print gloves. The 23-year-old started off with “Blah Blah Blah,” and couldn’t contain how excited she was to be playing at the historic venue.
“I cannot believe that I’m playing at the f***ing Garden,” she yelled. “Holy s***balls.”
“Party at a Rich Dude’s House” quickly switched to a jam about creepy old men, aptly titled “”Dinosaur.” Hers was a fun 30-minute set: Prancing around U.S. flags draped in Christmas lights along with her dancers, Ke$ha ran through all of the singles from her debut album, Animal. Like a wasted party girl at night’s end, she crawled the length of the stage for “Take It Off.” Her style (or lack thereof) is constantly attacked; what hardly is mentioned, though, is her talent. The Nashville native’s Cyndi Lauper-meets-the-Valley voice was a near-perfect match to her tracked records. She also briefly hopped on the keyboard and drums before closing out with her breakout smash, “Tik Tok.” Her time up, the main event was set to start.
A robotic voice greeted fans prior to Rihanna revealing herself: “Welcome to Rihanna’s world. These are her dreams.” The stage transformed to a barren battlefield, and Rihanna floated out wearing a black gown fit for a funeral. The red-haired vixen started with the grim “Russian Roulette.” The 22-year-old quickly dumped the dress, uncovering a sexier studded flesh-toned leotard highlighted by its exaggerated shoulders. (Ever the fashion icon, all of her costumes featured exaggerated shoulders.) Next up was “Hard,” where she climbed up and straddled the long arm of a pink tank—sexual innuendo intended. The kids in attendance should’ve been covering their eyes. They weren’t. Maybe they were just admiring the Mickey Mouse ears she rocked.
The sold-out venue enjoyed all of her grinds and winds. She’s not a high-caliber dancer. But she’s mastered the skill of being attractive while grooving. Rihanna’s voice was strong as well. Unlike Mary J. Blige or Mariah Carey, hers isn’t of the powerhouse variety. It’s more like a pleasant Bajan siren, if there’s such a thing. It never wavered or fell flat. Soaring monsters attacked during her “Disturbia.” Several outfit changes later, she pushed up on her male dancers to for “Rude Boy” in a catsuit. Then, in need of treatment, she sprawled out on a leather chair for “Rehab.” “Te Amo” found her teasing her dancers, who looked more ready for a bondage session than a concert. And transitioning from “Breakin’ Dishes” to “The Glamorous Life,” Rihanna stepped to the drums for her best Sheila E. impression. Travis Barker’s tutelage was put to good use. Even wasn’t the best drum solo ever, it was a cute try.
As the show wound down, many were hoping for a surprise guest. Surely Rihanna’s first headlining stop at the Garden would merit an appearance from “Run This Town” collaborator Kanye West, who was in attendance? Or maybe Jay-Z, who had just finished up a performance at Radio City Music Hall a few blocks up the street, would join her in time for an “Umbrella” grand finale. No such thing occurred. She confidently finished this show on her own as pink confetti rained on the audience. The jumbo screen went dim as she glided backstage. Then it lit back up with its last pink all-capped message: “WAKE UP!” Wow, what a dream that was.
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