Rihanna @ SECC, Glasgow – 10th October 2011

Rihanna on stage at SECCI know what you’re thinking…Rihanna!?, on musicscramble.co.uk? Well as it turns out tonight proved we aren’t just about rock and metal, though admittedly it does seem that way most of the time! Put simply: good music is good music regardless of genre and tonight was an exercise in proving just that.

So, we find ourselves in the SECC at exactly 19:30 when Scotland’s own Calvin Harris starts proceedings with a blistering hour-long set which got the crowd into a frenzy; even finishing with current number 1 single, ‘We Got Love’ featuring Rihanna….only for a bizarre reason she didn’t feature. Doesn’t make sense to me why she didn’t either appear to sing it, or the song was moved and played as part of her main set. But it wasn’t. A bit weird.

Just after 9, the venue lights dimmed and Rihanna appeared travelling from between two massive screens at the back of the stage in some kind of chair contraption. She looked very Bond Villan-esque, only with much less clothing and a damned sight better! Launching immediately into smash single ‘Only Girl In The World’ it didn’t take very long for the venue to erupt. In truth she sounded blisteringly good!

Admittedly this kind of pop show is often different to the usual concert fare, usually in that there are loads of backing tracks, backing singers, backing dancers, and loads of diversion from the fact that the act / singer isn’t that good. Rihanna is guilty of the backing dancers who took part in every song and really made the show so worthwhile watching. There were two backing singers who actually sung backing vocals and harmonies (nothing else), and a real live rock band!! Not only was it a real band, but the lead guitarist was none other than Extreme’s Nuno Bettencourt! Damned good.

Yup, Rhi-Rhi (as she’s apparently known) has a fantastic set of lungs on her, and with her live band rocking behind her didn’t need all the glitz, charades, smoke, mirrors and distractions to blow you away. Of course, the show still had a fantastic stage show and was a real pleasure to watch!!

Tonight was a lesson in true pop classics, from arguable the best female pop act on the circuit currently. It’s scary how many hit singles, and quality songs she has. Even with a number of singles from previous album Rated R not being played, there was little downtime or moments where it felt like “filler”.

The show had many set-pieces such as Rihanna riding a bright pink artillery gun during ‘Raining Men’ (no, not THAT song), sliding along and around the stage on a moving walkway for ‘Disturbia’, or the PVC-clad Pole Dancers stripping her of her clothes down to very little and then male dancers writhing around and over as she sung the wickedly brilliant ‘S&M’. It was so very hard to take your eyes off the stage as she commanded the 10,000 strong crowd to watch her every move.

For ‘Hate That I Love You’ Rihanna and her guitarist sat on a raised wing of stage-right, which proved to be a perfect opportunity for many of the crowd to rush and snap pictures. What was also clear at this moment was just how truly gifted a singer she is. Sure there are many songs in the set before now where the singing was perfectly formed, but on such a stripped-back track with simple guitar accompaniment it was laid down clear for any doubters who may have been left in the room. And, as if to prove the point a little further the very next track was ‘California King Bed’ which was a real highlight of the show for me. Superlatives abound frankly!

Other tracks worth a mention include last one of the main set, ‘Take A Bow’. So sure of the effect on the crowd, Rihanna was able to sit hunched at the front of the stage without even a mic near her and lip-sync to the crowd singing every word. She looked genuinely moved, and it was a pleasure to witness. For the first encore, a grand piano descended from the heavens above the stage. The piano raised up and the two of them spun in the air for the non-Eminem version of ‘Love The Way You Lie (Part II). At this moment my feelings for the show were absolutely cemented; truly stunning from start to finish and worth every penny. The vocals were truly sublime and it was a perfect finale, only it wasn’t….

Last track was early single ‘Umberella’, which amusingly and rather bizarrely allowed more than half of the audience to produce -apparently from nowhere – the aforementioned items and dance and sing with them raised high above their heads!! Ah, the joy of women and handbags!!

Last time I was in this venue was to see Iron Maiden, and tonight couldn’t have provided a performance further from that one, but just like then, tonight was mind-blowingly good and just as essential!!

Rihanna Setlist S.E.C.C., Glasgow, Scotland 2011, Loud Tour
Gareth Fraser
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