Saturday, October 19, 2013

Rihanna in South Africa: Johannesburg show a great dissappointment

When will music stars from overseas stop dishing up second rate shows for us?
Not all visiting stars treat South African audiences in this way.  It’s just some who believe they can “third worldise” us. They jet in to sunny South Africa, wallow in the adulation, deliver a half-hearted show … and go on to places with audiences that they seemingly respect more.
The Rihanna show (13 Oct 2013 in Johannesburg) was a massive disappointment.
There was a great deal of hype in the run-up. Newspapers covered her touchdown in the country with front page stories. Squadrons of youth and women got into some serious “styling” and trekked out, many hours before the start time, to FNB Stadium for the show.
But her Navy (fan base) and others who attended the show were left short changed.
There were many hiccups in logistics and arrangements. Although golden circle people were let into the venue on time, the gates opened as late as possible for others.
Following the gate number printed on my ticket, I had to walk almost 180 degrees to the assigned seat.
Also, there were major traffic snarl-ups with one newspaper reporting delays of several hours. The organisers again chose not to make use of the Rea Vaya – although this innovative bus system is perfect for bringing audiences to the stadium, no buses ran to the venue for this event.
After a 40 minute delay, Rihanna eventually appeared on stage. She did not connect with her audience. True, she did repeat “hello Johannesburg” numerous times during the evening, to my daughter’s amusement – and reminiscent of a performer from a foreign land who is unable to communicate in English beyond a few words. For the rest, she seemed to be in her own world, self-involved and distracted. My daughter – who has come to expect ‘spectacle’ at big shows – commented that Rihanna did not bother with a change of outfit. A change of glad rags is neither here nor there for me, but I did take note that her largely black outfit turned her into an unidentifiable speck on stage, especially when surrounded by a dozen or so dancers similarly dressed in black.
Rihanna went through a full programme of songs, including some older numbers such as Umbrella, which drew wild and expectant cheers from the crowd. However, the sound quality was iffy, especially in the beginning. And throughout the show the vocals seemed flattened out and less than crispy. Back in the car on the way home, a radio station played one of Rihanna’s hits. The radio version was much clearer and the production values infinitely better than the same song that crashed out of the speakers at the venue just a short while before.
Rihanna danced energetically – a kind of party on stage with her musicians and backing dancers – but her singing was passionless. Her multitasking apparently failed her – the more dance moves she dished out, the more she seemed to detach from the singing..
It is hard to tell whether Rihanna synced or not – many believe she did. But certainly, her passionless singing seems consistent with someone syncing. Audience members danced along but a portion, sensing that they weren’t being blown away, began trickling out before the show ended.
All in all, a rather tired show by an uninspiring Rihanna.