Date: April 6, 2012
City: San Jose, CA
Venue: HP Pavilion
Opening Act(s): A$AP Rocky
The first time I saw Rihanna she performed as part of the NFL Kick Off concert held at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. This was back in 2005 and the only song people knew was “Pon de Replay”. She was only 17 at the time. I was not impressed. I didn’t feel that she had that great of a voice. Others around me agreed and were upset to find out that “Pon de Replay” was the only relatively decent song. They probably only liked it because it was the only one they had heard.
Since 2005 Rihanna has had six more albums and a ton of hits. I enjoy her songs because I like the beats. I still feel that her voice isn’t very good and that she is a studio artist that is overproduced because she has to be. But I wanted to go to the show because I figured the production would be fairly spectacular.
The ticket said that the show would start at 7:30. As I was sitting at the bar in the Comerica Bank Club (hooray for floor seats) I overheard a few people say that A$AP Rocky, the only opener, wasn’t suppose to go on until 8:30 and that Rihanna would go on around 10. So why did the ticket say 7:30 and why didn’t HP Pavilion or Live Nation send an email to let everyone know of the time change?
A$AP Rocky came on at 8:40. I’m not familiar with his music, but knew he was a rapper with a song titled “Fuckin’ Problems” thanks to a younger co-worker and Spotify. I enjoy some rap, but it’s not my first choice in music genres. Talking about God and ‘pussy’ in the same sentence just seems wrong. Performance wise he worked the stage well and got the crowd going. He attempted to sing and was kind enough to say that he didn’t have a good singing voice before he started the song. He didn’t lie. But you have to give him props for doing his thing.
Rihanna’s set started at 10:14. I thought HP Pavilion had to shut down shows at 11pm due to sound ordinances. As it was a Saturday night I was hoping that the time could be pushed to midnight. Otherwise there was going to be a lot of really pissed off people if we only saw a 45-minute show. Thankfully Rihanna was able to do her entire set and ended about 11:40.
The production was spectacular – a huge stage with portions that raised and lowered her and her band, plenty of LED screens to light up the arena and five outfits. Watching her dance in the middle of her back up dancers was striking. My only complaint about her dancing was the constant hand gestures around her crotch. That is not my idea of sexy.
While her voice has improved since 2005, she still sounds better on record. At times I questioned whether or not there was a back track or if it was just that the sound on the back up singers’ mics was much louder than Rihanna’s. I did appreciate the fact that she didn’t pretend to sing the entire song and would let the back up singers (or back track) cover as she danced. I know that most artists don’t sing every word if they are going to be doing serious dance moves and I expected the same from Rihanna.
Most songs were from the last two albums, but she sprinkled in some early songs. In the middle of her set was a medley of her biggest hits – “We Found Love”, “S&M”, “Only Girl (In the World)”, “Don’t Stop the Music”, and “Where Have You Been”. The dancing for this section was stellar.
She started her two-song encore with “Stay”. She sang this song on her own and sounded pretty good. Her voice cracked a few times, but this was the song that made me think that her voice had improved since 2005. The final song of the night was, of course, “Diamonds”. It was the Diamonds World Tour after all.
My expectations for this show were pretty dead on. Her voice wasn’t great, but the production and dancing helped make up for that. If you are a big fan you’ll love the show, if not you may feel the same way I did.