True to its name, Rihanna’s “Anti” tour breaks pretty much every accepted concert industry rule.
At her Barclays Center show in Brooklyn on Sunday night, she opened with the ballad “Stay,” from the back of the arena. She overwhelmed the capacity crowd with new material, with nearly half the set coming from “Anti,” released only two months ago. And she did a medley of her biggest hits, while doing full versions of her lesser-known songs.
Good thing for Rihanna that her well-paced show works so well.
If there was any lingering doubt about who is in control of her career and her artistic choices, the “Anti” tour makes clear that it is RiRi herself, as each of the show’s five sections showcases a different facet of her personality and her career.
“Brand new tour, brand new album,” she told the crowd. “This [expletive] is not that complicated.”
Actually, it is though. And it’s telling that she starts with her most vulnerable side first, opening with the pleading ballad “Stay” and the poignant, piano-driven “Love the Way You Lie (Part 2).”
From there, she moves to the aggressive party girl of “Bitch Better Have My Money,” delivered with the crowd screaming along to every word, and “Pose.”
The middle section marks her pop side, culminating with a medley of hits that include “Run This Town” and the unforgettable “Umbrella.”
In the fourth section, she returns to her Caribbean roots, showing how “Rude Boy” fits in with her new No. 1 “Work.” Rihanna also transitions into her better-living-through-dancing phase with the stunning “We Found Love” and “Where Have You Been,” featuring new millennium Supremes staging.
For her finale, Rihanna reveals how she can still be tender, especially in “Love on the Brain,” destined to be another “Anti” smash.
In addition to showing off a more soulful tone to her voice, the retro R&B ballad shows how, despite everything she has been through, Rihanna is ready to make herself vulnerable again. But this time, she’s older and wiser — and not all that interested in following rules any more.
SETLIST: Stay / Love the Way You Lie (Part 2) / Woo / Sex With Me / Birthday Cake / Pour It Up / Numb / Bitch Better Have My Money / Pose / Consideration / MEDLEY: Live Your Life > Run This Town > All of the Lights / Umbrella / Desperado / Man Down / Rude Boy / Work / Take Care / We Found Love / Where Have You Been / Needed Me / Same Ol’ Mistakes / Diamonds / FourFiveSeconds / Love on the Brain / Kiss It Better