REVIEW: Rihanna (finally) at AAC

IMG_7809Dallas and Rihanna have had a contentious relationship in the past — a point she brought up last night when recalling (1) in the 2011 show, where a fire onstage cut her gig short and of course, (2) this year’s cancellation, which led to Monday’s make-up concert at American Airlines Center. But she worked to make sure Dallas fans got the show she intended them to have. With a solid set of hits, RiRi delivered an expectedly big concert that straddled both old school performances and a karaoke night.

After her prologue of “Mother Mary,” the show exploded big with “Phresh Off The Runway,” setting a fast and furious tone for the rest of the night. Her cadre of dancers and her band surrounded the singer in a fairly minimal, but nonetheless, creative set of architectural columns and obligatory pop-star-concert display screens. But they never allowed eyes to be taken off the star. Or she wouldn’t. And couldn’t. Rihanna seemed to strive hard to win Dallas over and the screams were likely proof she did. The energy from the opening track to “Cockiness” was a nonstop flurry of clipped hits that was both thrilling and disappointing.

Often, she would edit her songs down to (perhaps) manage a quicker flow of her 23-song pre-encore set list, but nonetheless, it felt at times like a convenient medley. This reflects Rihanna’s pop expertise. She’s become a megastar through some respectable talent but more so through a blatant use of force. Seven albums in seven years, constant tours, her new Styled to Rock show on Bravo and that relentless media display of her 777 Tour last year, Rihanna knows that she needs to punch hard to be big and that first act of last night’s show was that on huge display.

But when she stepped away from being Rihanna The Product, she had genuine, even surprising moments that revealed the star she could truly be. Although merely a set-up, her opener “Mother Mary,” with just her on the stage is her frankness about fame. A haunting track where she admitted never thought this many people / would even know my name is one of the most confessional lines in pop and her voice extended that notion through the almost-capacity crowd.

She took the crowd to church as she winded the set down with her dance hits and again, she broke from both her brand and her fuck-it-all attitude. As the first notes of “We Found Love” chimed in, the grooves burst into jams and she enveloped herself in the blasting vibes of the track followed by “S&M,” “Only Girl (In the World)” and “Where Have You Been.” If even an expected move, the suite of songs were akin to a gay dance floor times infinity.

Unfortunately, she’s a fan of the backing track and didn’t shy away from not singing — while still “singing.” As she had even on her small and mid-size venue 777 tour, she would often let the mike drop to either pose or dance in hits like “Umbrella” and “You Da One.” That disregard though was so painfully obvious in her ballads where she practically refused to belt out the majorly dramatic chorus of “What Now,” her upcoming single of Unapologetic. If last night was Rihanna-karaoke, then the entire night would have been stellar.

At 25, Rihanna controlled the stage with rebellious poise. With cameras on her at all times, she almost doesn’t have a bad angle. She’s a stunning woman and can seduce both the stage audience and the camera at the same time. Rihanna then turned that into the party girl she needed to be to wrap the audience up into the show. Although a somewhat pseudo-show at times, she won her way back into Dallas’ graces without being unapologetic (see what I did there) for previous snafus. But when she returned for her one-two punch encore of “Stay” and “Diamonds,” all was forgiven and the crowd chorus wasn’t just a sing along, it was an embrace.

2 Chainz kept the fanfare on low but was nonetheless a monster onstage. Relying on the power of tracks like “Riot” and “I’m Different,” and rousing the crowd even more with “Beez in the Trap,” Chainz’s set had the polish of a pro with the spirit of a rebel.

—  Rich Lopez

Of Madonna and Big Tex

Oct. 19, 2012, may we be considered Dallas’ Black Friday — or at least, Blackened Friday.

The day began with the surprising news that Big Tex, the animatronic corporate logo for the State Fair of Texas (the Fair’s website is even BigTex.org), caught fire and burned up faster than a joint in Snoop Dogg’s trailer. Pictures of the flamer (I knew it!) became the latest meme to dominate Facebook; news sourced from as far away as the BBC reported on it.

Then, less than 12 hours later, came more devastating news: Madonna was canceling the first of her two concerts at American Airlines Center. I was at an event with tons of gay folks, and the news spread faster … well, faster than flames over Big Tex.

How much can one community be expected to endure?!?!

The thing is, neither of these event is, really, such a big deal. Oohhhh, Madonna has laryngitis; it happens. She still performed last night (and, by all accounts, was fully recovered) and so many of her fans still got what they wanted. And Big Tex? Well, the fair was almost over anyway, and while the majority of the skeleton may have been around for 60 years, it was, in the end, a badly dressed scaffolding with a loudspeaker in his chest. It was not, in the end, a tragedy of any sort.

So why were people acting as if both of them were?

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

This week’s takeaways: Life+Style

The Bruce Wood Dance Project has three more performances of the choreographer’s new show at Booker T. Washington in the Arts District, including an encore of the first program, which debuted last night (with Gary Floyd providing beautiful vocals to the stunning new “I’m My Brother’s Keeper”). Wood is up to his old tricks: The technical beauty of classic ballet combined with the muscular physicality of modern dance plus Wood’s own unique contributions of humor and an emphasis on the potential of the male form. Don’t miss it — it ends this Sunday.

Also over this Sunday is Oklahoma! at Lyric Stage; don’t miss it, either (you have a busy weekend ahead of you!). As we’ve come to expect, director Cheryl Denson has crafted a massive and engaging piece of classic theater with a huge cast, full orchestra and dazzling sets. You have more time to see Jersey Boys at the Winspear Opera House — it’ll be around almost another month — but it’s just as unmissable.

—  Arnold Wayne Jones

Concert Notice: Madonna at AAC Oct. 20

Big concert news came hours ago as Madonna officially announced the itinerary for her new world tour and Dallas makes the list. This marks her first show this way since the Blonde Ambition tour hit Reunion arena 22 years ago. I was stunned that she wouldn’t be hitting Cowboys Stadium, but this makes it much closer to home. This news only adds to her recent return to the pop culture radar with her new movie W/E, Sunday’s Super Bowl performance and her release last week, “Give Me All Your Luvin’” from her upcoming album M.D.N.A.

Will she repeat some of the imagery of her Super Bowl performance that recalled a lot of Kylie’s Aphrodite tour? Mmmmm…hopefully not, but please, Madge, no lip syncing like you did during most of your performance.

Madonna is scheduled to play the American Airlines Center, Oct. 20 with tickets to begin going on sale to the general public Feb. 21.

—  Rich Lopez

Xiu Xiu covers Rihanna

As a clever if not strange B-side, queer fronted band Xiu Xiu released a rather eclectic redux of Rihanna’s hit “Only Girl (in the World).” I doubt it will help you get in the mood for her Friday show at AAC, but give it a listen. Singer Jamie Stewart, in strange ways, continues to prove his weird brilliance.

According to the press release, the cover “was inspired by a night at backlot Durham, N.C. lesbian bar Steele Blue—watching all the southern dykes go crazy on the dance floor when the song dropped. A dissonant string quartet backed by an undeniable dance beat, the gender-bend of the cover is furthered with a quote from Detroit Grand Pubahs’ song ‘Sandwiches’ — a song beloved by Stewart for its unintended gender screw and one that is just as filthy as Rihanna’s.”

The A-side “Daphny” depicts the true story of Stewart’s friend “who — following an arrest for shoplifting — was raped by an officer while in police custody. There is nothing to say about this that is not already reflected in the 7-inch’s cover title. The outro’s refrain ‘enjoy life, enjoy life, enjoy this life!’ is the back of a hand wiping away tears of hatred, fear, disbelief and stunned empathy; what else can one do but ‘take a photo of your friend vomiting on your head’? The song is an attempt to give support, to accuse and most of all to live in spite of life.”

“Daphny” is also the first song where new members Zac Pennington and Sam Mickens joined Stewart in writing a Xiu Xiu tune.

While I’m kinda fascinated by “Daphny,” I’m still making up my mind on the Rihanna cover. Listen to them here.

—  Rich Lopez

WATCH: Lady Gaga performs at the AAC

—  John Wright

Concert notice: Carrie Underwood comes to AAC Oct. 9

After winning  her second entertainer of the year award last night at the Academy of Country Music Awards, Carrie Underwood follows up with Friday’s announcement of her 2010 tour dates. On top of that, she’s even planning a wedding. Now that’s a busy lady.

Underwood will also use the tour as a fundraiser for Save the Children’s United States Program. This is from the release:

Ever the charitable soul, Underwood will be donating 36 cents of every ticket sold for the fall tour dates to Save the Children’s United States Programs.  This initiative was inspired by the “36 cents” written in the lyrics of her album track “Change” which addresses how even the smallest bit of spare change that one might have can add up to make a difference and help “change” the world.  Fans can see Underwood perform this song, “Change,” on Idol Gives Back this Wednesday, April 21 on Fox.

The Play On Tour stops in Dallas at the American Airlines Center on Oct. 9. Billy Currington and Sons of Sylvia will open.

—  Rich Lopez

Concert notice: Lady Gaga comes to American Airlines Center in July

Lady Gaga just released tour dates of the next leg of her American tour and finally, Dallas makes the list. She is scheduled to play American Airlines, July 22. It’s looking a little early for deets because both LiveNation and her site aren’t yet updated.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but is American Airlines Center the next venue she’s played in Dallas after these two? Now that’s a major jump.

—  Rich Lopez

Miley Cyrus at AAC last night

Miley Cyrus took over the American Airlines Center last night. Even though you might think Ms. Cyrus is just for tween girls and their willing parents (well, it is really), a couple of colleagues just had to have their Miley fix. Chance and Ramon added to their unusually busy concert itinerary with Miss Hannah Montana herself. They danced and Tweeted the night away but I asked them to write up the show from their seats — again.

—  Rich Lopez