Last night was a huge evening for pop-R&B star Rihanna. The "Umbrella" diva performed a sold-out concert at New York City's legendary Madison Square Garden and BET.com was in the venue. The Last Girl on Earth Tour is Rihanna's first headlining North American tour. There may have been doubts, but Rihanna proved she has the star power to command a stage for nearly two hours.
It shouldn't be a shocker that Rih could rock out the Garden. She has five Billboard Hot 100 solo #1 hits and two more on featured songs. In addition, there are countless top 10 hits. In Rihanna's short career she has amassed a catalogue of pop tracks that take some artists a decade to get.
Rihanna opened with the first single from her latest album, “Russian Roulette.” She appears almost supernatural, sliding toward the audience in a black dress, highlighted with red lights. The platform moves her higher and, dare I say, her voice soars. Her image is clearly there, but who knew the critics were wrong -- Rihanna can sing and there were no signs of lip-synching. Rih never said she was Whitney Houston, and while she doesn't have a massive vocal range, she uses her voice well, sounding just like her records and belting out some notes that I didn't know were in her.
The Bajan diva understands image, and the Last Girl on Earth Tour was packed with the dream land and nightmarish world of Rihanna. In short, the crowd is caught in Rihanna's dreams, which go from a nightmare to ending sweetly. Almost Goth-like, she sings "Hard" while riding a pink Army tank, monsters on stilts chase her in "Disturbia," girls in leather bondage outfits dance in "Te Amo," she sings “Rehab” on a coach surrounded by fake human limps, and violently bangs the drums on a cover of Sheila E.'s "The Glamorous Life."
As wonderfully eerie as her concert is, it's still an incredibly fun show. The majority of the songs performed were singles, which kept the audience energized. However, it wasn't the up-tempo songs that were the most gripping; it was the morbid ballads like "Firebomb," "Unfaithful" and "Take a Bow." Of course the night ended with her biggest hit and what is clearly a pop classic, “Umbrella.” Red confetti exploded in the Garden as everyone chanted, “Ella! Ella! Eh! Eh!”
There is a horror and a rage in Rihanna's Last Girl on Earth Tour, which we rarely see from female artists, especially Black female artists. Who knows what her performances were like before the media firestorm of last year, but this 22-year-old has lived and has some performing chops to prove it. Rihanna deserves a round of applause for doing something different, straying away from being a standard pop tart. As she said in her nasty-anthem "Rockstar 101": "I never play the victim. I'd rather be a stalker. So baby take me in, I'll disobey the law. Make sure you frisk me good, check my panties and my bra."
For tickets to Rihanna's Last Girl on Earth Tour go to TicketMaster.com.
Clay Cane is the Entertainment Editor at BET.com. You can read more of his work at claycane.net.