“It’s been a while since we’ve been on tour,” Rihanna declared to a packed house at the kickoff of her ANTI Tour on Saturday. “And now here we are in . . . Jacksonville?”
Yes, RiRi gifted the Florida city that smells like coffee (there’s a Maxwell House factory downtown) with the first stop on her tour — but only after canceling the previous seven cities because of production delays. “Y’all get to see this s— before anyone,” Rihanna proclaimed to her assembled subjects, a mix of the GNO crowd (pleather pants and Henry’s Hard Soda), third-date couples (jeans and Bud Lite), and Wanna-Rihs (legs and rumrunners). “And I know y’all really have to love this s— to spend money on this s—.” But did she work-work-work-work-work hard enough to ensure her fans got their money’s worth? Read on for the night’s biggest surprises.
1. Eyes to the back at the beginning
Taking the stage around 9:20 p.m., Rihanna gave back-of-the-house ticket holders the first close-up view of the evening. Wearing what appeared to be a loose-fitting straight jacket crossed with a boxer’s robe for a look that said, “Sexy Jawa” (only her eyes were visible — barely), she performed her smash “Stay” from 2012’s Unapologetic. It was a true-to-the-studio rendition that had fans joining in, but like several other of the other hits she would perform later in the evening, the song suffered from the lack of guest vocals (in this case, Mikky Ekko’s counter-yearning). This is a one-woman evening, and the only “anti” is of Rihanna’s choosing. Of course, no one watching her high-march/slouch-strut across a glass catwalk to the ego-fueled anthem “Sex With Me” could doubt that she isn’t capable of commanding a sold-out arena on her own.
2. The ‘Work’ lyrics are just as unintelligible when sung live
Anyone wondering whether the Grammy winner’s new single off ANTI — performed in Jacksonville without Drake — is easier to sing along to in person (a feat that even vocal sorceress Ariana Grande couldn’t pull off on last night’s SNL) needn’t wonder: It isn’t. But the crowd satisfied themselves with a general murmur-along during much of the chorus — and saved some of the loudest cheers of the night for whenever Rihanna shook her rum-pum-pum-pum to the beat.
Check out some fan-shot footage below: