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Rihanna Nashville 2016

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Rihanna Nashville 2016

Nathan Armstrong

Photo credit: Dennis Leupold

For me, Rihanna has always been one of those artists that you hear on the radio, jam to their popular singles, and don’t think much more about. After her show at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville last night, I have completely flipped my stance. Rihanna’s less recognized album tracks are sometimes even better than the upbeat pop singles we hear from her on a regular basis. She was able to create a show that catered to both hard-core fans and casual radio listeners. She undoubtedly left all 20,000 in attendance with an inkling to give the album tracks a chance.

Travis Scott opened the show and played as the arena was filling up. I know Travis from his recent feature on the new Bieber album and his single on the radio, “Antidote”. Scott brought energy and a fun club vibe to the first hour of the show. He had Bridgestone bouncing in their seats as he played through his album in an effort to win over fans. He succeeded. I saw several people adding tracks from his album to their Spotify playlists. It’ll be interesting to see how his sound changes on his sophomore album, but the debut is promising.

Rihanna took the stage around 9pm. She opened the show walking in from the rear of the arena covered by an all-white robe with a hoodie. The area near the soundboard folded up to create a platform with a single white microphone on it. Lit by a single spotlight, Rihanna ascended to the platform and slayed her smash hit “Stay”. Every phone in the arena was up and filming as she sold the show to all 20,000 in a matter of 15 seconds.

Following “Stay”, a clear, rectangular box lowered from the rafters and Rihanna stepped into it. She performed the chorus of Eminem’s “Love The Way You Lie” followed by “Woo”, an album track from her new album “ANTI”.The platform then descended on the main stage and she stepped out. The main stage was completely white. All the band’s instruments were completely white. Her water bottle was completely white. The tour’s wardrobe looked as though it was straight out of Kanye’s clothing line. The entire tour’s design was so good I tweeted about it. A Rihanna fan promptly tweeted at me informing me Willo Perron was the tour designer. Explains the Kanye-esc feel. I would have paid to see the tour solely on the design.

Rihanna played all of her radio hits, but as I mentioned earlier, she did a phenomenal job of giving the entire arena a reason to listen to her entire album. On the drive back to Memphis after the show, I listened to “ANTI” twice through and have several new tracks to show my friends. The radio hits will get people in the door. The show is where you convert those radio listeners to fans. Rihanna is a master at that conversion.

- @njarmstrong