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Rihanna’s light shines bright under Charlotte’s big umbrella

By Jared Allen 

March 21, 2016

Bright lights, alluring melodies and an aura of pleasure pervade Time Warner Cable Arena. The stadium once filled with Travis Scott’s rhymes fades to black as an enormous disco-like mirror gradually drops and hovers over the stage drawing the sold-out crowd’s attention. Cheers echo from end to end and anxiety swells.

Rihanna emerges from the darkness in the west tunnel cloaked in white. The musical icon steps into the spotlight crooning the lyrics to her chart-topping melody, “Stay.”

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Needless to say, not a single soul pondered their exit.

It’s been 11 years since the Barbados born pop sensation stunned Jay-Z and L.A. Reid with her marvelous vocals, earning a six-album record deal with Def Jam. Now, touring on behalf of her eighth studio album, Anti, Rihanna’s both experienced and accomplished. However, she doesn’t fail to forget the long, storied road that led to superstardom.

Bad girl RiRi ended a three-year hiatus and kicked off the sixth stop of her world tour with throwback tracks including, “Love the Way You Lie (Part II),” “Pour It Up” and “Bitch Better Have My Money.” The early decade defining tunes livened the audience as Rihanna swung from a glass bridge suspended between her two stages. The Charlotte Hornets hardwood below transformed into an energized dance floor.

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Photo: Dennis Leupold

Her showmanship and stunning charisma coupled with the Barbadians admirable vocal ability affirmed the claim that she deserves a spot on today’s musical Mount Rushmore.

Rihanna graced the stage flanked by countless dancers, who effortlessly matched the singer’s power and passion. Without realization, Rihanna slipped under the pure white platform before reemerging to pump the atmosphere with a trio of hip-hop ballads. T.I.’s “Live Your Life’, Kanye West’s “All of the Lights” and Jay-Z’s “Run This Town” excited the crowd with the possibility of a special guest appearance.

“Diamonds” had the audience singing lyric for lyric with RiRi as foam dripped from a 30-foot wall erected behind the stage and cell phone flashes mimicked the glistening of shiny jewels. The lack of a backing track promoted authenticity and sincerity.

She sauntered the stage from end to end for “Umbrella,” the track that prompted two million U.S. downloads and drove her into iPod’s across the globe in 2007, while raindrops showered the Queen City. A few more timeless classics mixed with the smash-hits “Work” and “FourFiveSeconds” alleviated any outside stress that arose on Monday Eve.

After sitting down to reach out and thank the Charlotte crowd, Rihanna dove into Anti’s hidden gems before capping off the night with “Kiss It Better.” A square box ascended from the stage, raising Rihanna into the forefront as she grasped her microphone and harmoniously sang the love inspired lyrics while blowing kisses to the countless illuminated faces. Her performance left the Queen City thankful, without needing an encore.

While headlines speculating about Rihanna’s personal life occupy the front page of entertainment magazines and tabloids weekly, her presentation Sunday night reestablishes the certainty that Rihanna is in a world of her own, on top of her game. 

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