PARIS — As Rihanna’s 777 Tour enters its fifth day, participants are starting to wonder whether the Internet and its denizens have had enough of us, and whether anyone still cares to hear about the final days of this crazy idea made real.
Last night in Paris, where Rih played a truncated set in the tiny Le Trianon theater, the ridiculousness of this whole endeavor — what with the waiting for hours on the tarmac, airborne hijinks and afterparties filled with rap royalty — was thrown into stark relief against the obvious fact of why we’re all here, and why we should keep sharing this experience. Quite simply, Rihanna is an incredibly engaging performer, capable of becoming more and more likable with repeated viewing.
The energy in Paris was unlike any of the previous shows, partly because of the tiny room, but also because the relationship between the star and her fans in France is clearly more developed and intimate than it has seemed in the countries we visited before. She seems to know some of them by name, shouting out the recipient of the special “R”-emblazoned phone, by name, and suggesting that everyone follow him on Twitter, for example. The crowd was well-dressed and well-behaved, drinking champagne before the show, but screamed louder and were more engaged than any crowd before them when Rihanna took the stage.
In an oversize satin tee and over-the-knee suede stiletto boots, Rihanna took command of the room with a huge smile on her face, her hair in sleek, old Hollywood waves cascading down one side of her head, her signature side-shave on the other. This isn’t the first time she’s rocked the no-pants look, and it was easy to see why this is a style that she favors — that woman has incredible legs. Glittering around her neck was a diamond choker so clear it was incandescent, a quality that seemed to illuminate the singer’s entire face when the light hit it just right.
Le Trianon had a strict 10:30 p.m. curfew, so her usual set had to be cut down significantly. Gone was “Presh Out the Runway” and the entire acoustic section of the set. Luckily, though, new tracks like “Diamonds” and “Stay” remained.
And with Unapologetic being released Monday, it only seems right that Rihanna’s newer work would get more play. “Diamonds” is already a global hit, and it’s proven to be one of those songs that sticks in your head. But the real album standout, for this writer at least, so far has been “Stay.” Arguably Rihanna’s first real power ballad, the song is undeniably emotional and allows her to stretch herself both vocally and as a performer. The nuance and tenderness she embodies in her performances of the track makes those moments unlike any other in her set. This was apparent when she played the song on “SNL,” and it has remained true every time she’s played it on the 777 Tour.
Despite it being a song about sadness, darkness and the weak moments we all face, “Stay” finds Rihanna’s vocal strong and self-assured. It also proves that she can transcend the club and make more than radio-friendly party anthems, as well as signaling to both critics and fans that even seven albums in, she’s still an artist capable of surprises.
Despite some technical issues — Rihanna was visibly displeased with something in her in-ear monitor and even walked offstage for a moment, returning only to literally push away a technician who came out to help her — the show was her best yet. Clearly, a lot rides on the crowd and the artist’s relationship with them. And as she declared, referring to her Parisian fans, “You guys are the best.”
Following the show, it probably should have been off to bed for all of us, but when in Paris, how can you resist the afterparty? We got to unwind at the star-packed fete and are now off to Berlin, our second-to-last stop in Europe before closing out in NYC!