See, the thing about Plaza Condesa, the Mexico City venue for the inaugural performance, is that it’s startlingly small. Stunningly small. The intimate show was a special treat from the stadium-filling star and there wasn’t a single shoddy vantage point in the house.
After a long, dubstep-heavy set from tour DJ Congorock, Rihanna took to the stage with “Cockiness” from last year’s Talk That Talk (that you may remember from her VMA performance earlier this year). Clad in all black — with a leather bralette, matching baseball jersey, knee-length shorts and stiletto ankle boots — Rihanna flaunted rippling abs and dance moves that were simultaneously aggressive and totally fluid and included, of course, all of her signature moves. But more on that later.
The set began on a brash, high note, as the singer stuck to earwormy, fan-favorite songs from her sixth record. “Birthday Cake” followed “Cockiness” and seamlessly transitioned into the title track, “Talk That Talk,” before Rihanna took a break to address her fans. She dedicated “Wait Your Turn,” from 2009′s Rated R, to her Mexico City Navy, because “it [had] been too long” since she was last in the city. The crowd sung along, holding their hands and cell phones high, triumphantly shouting the words of the chorus, “the wait is ova.” Following this sweet, triumphant moment, Rihanna launched back into another back-to-back set of pounding past album hits, “Man Down,” “Only Girl in the World,” “Disturbia” and “S&M.”
Rihanna finally threw an Unapologetic track into the mix midway through the set. She broke out “Phresh Out the Runway,” turning the stage into her catwalk, showing off a slinky, long-legged strut worthy of any fashion show. The crowd didn’t have quite the same unbridled enthusiasm as they did for some of the more recognizable songs, but that didn’t stop anyone from filming and photographing the whole performance on their tablets, phones, etc. Look out for 8,000 fan vids on YouTube this afternoon, everyone.
In a super fast transition, a mic stand was brought out and electric guitars were traded for acoustic. “We’re in Mexico,” Rihanna shouted, and apparently the brief pause was enough to work the crowd into a new frenzy because they positively roared. “And because we’re in Mexico, we have to drink tequila!” A shot seemingly appeared out of the ether and Rihanna knocked it back like a pro, to more cheers from the crowd, before it became clear that things were going to quiet down a little. Things were about to get a little less raucous, and Rihanna herself said the set was about to be “getting a little emotional, a little sentimental.” She proceeded to perform acoustic, heartfelt versions of “Unfaithful,” “Take a Bow” and “Hate That I Love You, ” all songs that let her impressive pipes breathe in the tiny venue.
As soon as the quiet interlude had begun, it ended and hit after hit returned. “Where Have You Been” saw Rihanna back to her signature stomping and hip rolling, as well as the first appearance of the now infamous crotch-patting move. “What’s My Name” followed, remixed briefly, inexplicably and momentarily with Tyga’s “Rack City.” The energy was at its highest in this part of the set, with “Run This Town,” “Live Your Life” and “All of the Lights,” clear fan favorites.
Rihanna added a brimmed captain’s cap to her ensemble before once again shouting out her Mexican Navy, introducing her mega-hit “Diamonds” as “a new one” but adding, “You guys made it #1, that’s that Mexican Navy right there.”
During “Umbrella,” Rihanna shouted out her fellow 777 Tour passengers, yelling into to the balcony where a private lounge had been designated, “up top, my crew!” Which was met by a raising of hands, shouts and an intensification of already enthusiastic dancing and singing along. Although much of Rihanna’s press corps was furiously typing on their iPhones (me), shooting video, or scribbling notes by hand (so old fashioned) throughout the set, even the most serious journalists couldn’t resist singing along to their favorite tunes and even doing some understated dancing. The energy was particularly high during show-closer “We Found Love,” when Rihanna came down into the crowd and professed her love for her fans once again.