Concert Reviews

Last Night: Rihanna, J.Cole, a Fire at American Airlines Center

Rihanna, J. Cole, a goddamn fire
American Airlines
July 8 2011

Better than:
The Voice. Wait, does The Voice have fire?

Four spotlight displays and a rounded widescreen highlighted the swanky American Airlines Center stage setup for Rihanna's set last night. And it was all meant to draw attention to the performer.

Like she needed help.

The star came on stage dressed in a shiny blue bathrobe, starting up with her recent single "Only Girl (In The World)," followed by "Disturbia." Joining her throughout the set was a troupe of dancers and a backing band that looked like they could stand in for Nine Inch Nails. 

Before long, Ri's clothing transitioned from bathrobe to a blacklight potpourri lingerie. Other costumes included a spiffy cut-away pantsuit that was stripped down to white lingerie. 

A number of set pieces highlighted Ri's set, including a treadmill belt flush with the stage, and the whips and chains for the single "S+M." Ri demonstrated the rotating and retractable central platform by grinding on top of a fan picked from the standing alley on "Skin." "Raining Men" cued a pink, double-barreled turret with a T-shirt cannon. "Shut Up And Drive" saw a wrecked and spray-painted section of car. Sometime between "Breakin Dishes" and "Run This Town," Ri ran through the crowd to a platform at the other end of the arena with a standing drum set. 

No joke, she hit those skins like a champ. 

During "California King Bed," 16 songs into the set. Ri was dressed in a cut-away Marilyn Monroe-like yellow dress with, you guessed it, lingerie underneath. Fireworks streamed from above the stage on the final chorus around 10:50ish. 

Here's where things really got interesting: The fireworks set fire to a light on the truss. The song ended with the stage displays shutting off and a small blaze engulfing the truss. Two to three minutes later, techs extinguished the fire. There was soot all over the stage and equipment -- damage to the cables, too. 

It shut the show down. A couple minutes later, fire alarms ushered everyone out of the AAC slowly and smoothly. 

No word yet on if the show, which ended about seven songs early according to previous set lists from this tour, will be rescheduled or if tickets will be refunded.

J. Cole opened the show for about 40 minutes. Highlights of his set included a scratching demo from DJ Dummy and a tease of Paula Abdul's "Straight Up" during a track. J. Cole's physical delivery and a few clever lines ("Gary Coleman just passed / life is short from 'Blow Up'") show the artist's potential beyond mixtapes. 

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
I may have mentioned this before in my column, but I fricking love Rihanna. The hard-boiled tenor of her 2009's Rated R offered something harsher in pop music than cherry chapstick. The eerie down-tempo interludes reassured me that she still has that edge. 

Random Note: Opener J.Cole strikes me as a possible Jay-Z heir. He's certainly got the wit to set him apart from a lonely stoner or Canadian TV star in the hip-hop scene. 

By The Way: Wanna know what dance I did when Ri performed "Live Your Life"? This one