As we arrived into Newark Liberty International Airport Tuesday afternoon (Nov. 20), Rihanna came out from the darkness of first class and answered media questions during her second and last public appearance on the 777 Tour plane.
"Usually I go, go, and go. And this time I had to sleep," she continued. "Usually I would be back here partying my balls off for ya'll but I really had to pay attention and take care of my health because I'm on the plane all the time."
The cameras stayed focused on Rihanna and not those that sucked their teeth and sat back in their seats. We couldn't help it. Apologetic? Ironically yes, but it felt a little too late and predictable. And also, we were just so excited to exit the 7-day flight.
"You're free," a flight attendant said as we deplaned.
Although chants of "Fans! Fans!" did not entice Rihanna to venture to the rear of the plane where contest winners were seated, the sighting did have a plus side: It proved to skeptical passengers that the star had had actually been on the plane (for this flight, at least).
During her visit in London the previous day, most members of the media kept calm. It could have been because we had slept more than four hours (a first on the tour). It could have been that we were fighting between feelings of defeat and acceptance following the early morning's act of mutiny.
"Why'd you stop? You should have forced her out," a label rep told us. "I heard she was thinking of getting up, out of curiosity." Had we heard that a day before, there's no doubt that those words would have inspired hope in us. The hope to somehow figure out what all of this even was. The hope to know a bit more about the artist we were following around for a span of time I can't even remember.
Four hours after Rihanna switched the Christmas lights on at the Westfield Stratford City, a majority of the passengers headed towards the venue, the Forum. Some, including myself, stayed under the covers and watched the livestream courtesy of Jay-Z's YouTube channel. The dynamic between her and her London fans could be felt through the screen. Every song was followed by screams that, according to those in attendance, left the venue vibrating.
London Set List:
1. "Cockiness" 2. "Birthday Cake (Remix)" 3. "Talk That Talk" 4. "Wait Your Turn" 5. "Man Down" 6. "Only Girl in the World" 7. "Don't Stop the Music" 8. "S&M" 9. "Stay" 10. "Unfaithful" 11. "Take A Bow" 12. "Hate That I Love You" 13. "Take Care" snippet, "Where Have You Been" 14. "What's My Name?" 15. "Run This Town" 16. "Live Your Life" 17. "All of the Lights" 18. "Diamonds" 19. "Umbrella" 20. "We Found Love"
The London navy didn't seem fazed when Rihanna stopped a track to scold her band for the sound. "What the fuck is this? Why is the track off from the band?" Rihanna said. "This is the bullshit we have to deal with when we're doing a random rock & roll tour with no rehearsals and shit."
Rihanna kept the show going, ending her 20-song set with "We Found Love," much like previous nights. "Haters are liars," Rihanna said, as she walked backstage when closing concert No. 6. Did the happenings aboard the plane take a toll on anyone in First Class?
Who knows. When asked if she would do such tour again, she responded, "I'd fucking do this again." (Hey, we're all in state of bewilderment.)
After waiting six hours at the London airport, the flight took off for its last stop, Newark. During our final minutes in the air -- before she herself walked appeared -- Rihanna's bassist (Adam Blackstone), guitarist (Nuno Bettencourt, formerly of Extreme) and DJ Reflex got up from there seats to perform an acoustic set. They grabbed some attention from the assembled media and fans by covering Beyoncé's "Crazy in Love," Lenny Kravitz's "Fly Away" and two other songs. A request to hear Extreme's "More Than Words" was not appreciated.
But most sat back and counted down the minutes before landing.