Over the past seven days, Rihanna has been trawling the globe for her ambitious '777 tour' - seven shows, in seven countries, in seven days. Hoards of journalists and dedicated fans have joined the popstar to take over intimate venues for up close performances. Many of them have even been flying with her on the Boeing 777 jet as she travels from city to city.
Why has Rihanna chosen to subject herself to the unruly public? And what’s the deal with all the sevens? Here's the reasoning: after seven years as a chart topping artist, Rihanna is launching her seventh album – Unapologetic. And on Monday, on the day it was released across the world, Rihanna was here in London for her penultimate gig.
Rihanna is such a prolific and consistently successful musician that the concert could never fail to entertain. All one needs to hear are the opening chords of 'Umbrella' for ecstatic screams to fill the room. She certainly delivered some of her best tracks on Monday night. The set-list included classics from 'Unfaithful' and the reggae-styled 'Man Down', to her latest number one 'Diamonds'. We also got a flavour of her new album in the form of the drum n' bass inspired 'Jump', and the album's beautiful ballad 'Stay'.
The Forum in Kentish Town might be a small venue, but her team brought all the pyrotechnics fitting for global superstar to it's stage. Confetti canons, smoke machines, strobe lights – they had the lot. They even managed to break the habit of turning up two hours late, as they had on previous stops. Clearly somebody informed them that the London transport system waits for no one. The audience thinned before the end of the gig, but most managed to sing along to it's entirety before hopping on the final trains and tubes with husky voices and ringing ears.
Yet, it's just as well the audience could recite every lyric of her popular songs, because Rihanna was clearly shattered vocally. Who wouldn't be after all that travelling and singing? Her production team hiked the beat so loud on the club anthems that her voice was barely audible. By the final songs she was cutting her lyrics short after a few words, and shrugging her shoulders exasperatedly at her band. But before this point she still managed to belt out some ballads in spectacular style, reminding us why she has reigned as the queen of the charts for so long.
Without a doubt, Rihanna is one of the most talented artists of her generation. As she was performing in London, Unapologetic had rocketed to number 1 in the album charts of 43 countries. It is a thrill to be in such close proximity to so powerful a woman. But the intimacy of this tour has also shone a less flattering light on Rihanna.
The antics of the last week – refusing to mingle with those packed on her tour plane, culminating in headlines of her hiding in a 'panic room' while a frustrated Australian journalist streaked naked through the aisles – has certainly cultivated her diva image. And there were similar moments on stage in London, interrupting a track to reprimand her band for being out of time. Meanwhile, she seems to be continuing her relentless 'good girl gone bad' campaign, opening the show with the raunchy 'Birthday Cake'. The collaboration with Chris Brown on her new album will certainly leave some wandering if she isn't on a disturbing wave of self-destruction.
In between the endless crotch dancing, and the unnecessary teasing off of jackets, there was also a woman on stage who clearly loved performing. Even tired as she noticeably was, her eyes smiled and sparkled when she met the gaze of fans hoisting themselves on other's backs to reach her level. With her latest single 'Diamonds' storming the charts, clearly Rihanna has a lot still to give. Let's hope she remembers her own worth, and remains the same incredible musician for the next 7 years.
The 777 Tour in London was sponsored by HTC Corporation and River Island
Images via Charlotte Rowland for BitchBuzz.com