“It’s full of surprises, the ‘Anti,’ tour,” she said coyly, after Drake had left the stage following a performance of “Jumpman."
And while that might have been the camera-ready moment of the evening, the whole show was a big visual, beginning with Rihanna’s truly surprising entrance into the arena atop a platform set in the back of the arena floor above the crowd.
Clad in a hooded smock that opened in the back to reveal thigh-high garter boots and plenty of booty, Rihanna kicked things off in a minimalistic fashion, singing “Stay” and “Love the Way You Lie” to simple, keyboard accompaniment coming from the main stage.
Then she slowly made her way there, walking on an elevated plastic catwalk that deposited her on a stage devoid of any props or decoration save for light effects and a constantly changing backdrop that went from psychedelic to art installation.
Armed with a battalion of dancers and a jamming eight-piece band, Rihanna went through multiple outfit changes to deliver a show that was visually riveting and, at times, musically compelling. Performing both old hits and new material, and often taking real risks (including the slow opening as well as the slow closer, “Kiss It Better”), Rihanna seemed intent on showing that yes, she could twerk, she could dance, but she could also belt it out.
“Miami, what the f--k is up?” she asked. “It’s been a long-assed time. Brand new tour, brand new era, brand new album.”
And brand new approach.
The “Anti” tour is devoid of the bombastic staging of other tours, but with its well-defined sections and moods, it keeps you looking and on your feet; the backdrop that shed what appeared to be soap suds, for example, delivered wow effect. And with dancers who seemed to be straight out of Cirque du Soleil, it was sleek and elegant, more sensual and sexy than raunchy.
In the end, after gradually shedding off clothes for nearly two hours, Rihanna covered everything back again. For the final set, she came out wearing loose brown pants and oversized brown jacket over a barely visible bustier to sing in more acoustic fashion, finishing things off with the aforementioned “Kiss it Better” and then leaving the stage as credits rolled.
There was no hint or expectation of an encore as fans took this as their cue to leave for the night. It was perhaps too pat an ending for a finely choreographed evening, but no matter. The outfits alone and that catwalk were well worth it.