Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Rihanna found Ratchetlanta in a hopeless place

Posted By on Tue, Apr 23, 2013 at 4:57 PM

Rihanna became the crowd in her first Philips Arena show
  • Rihanna became the crowd in her first Philips Arena show
There was no upstaging Rihanna last night, but the people offstage came damn close.

In attendance for her first Atlanta concert since a cancellation at Phillips Arena two years ago were celebrities and pseudo-celebrities of the local variety: Real Housewife Kenya Moore caused a minor cellphone-picture taking ruckus before the show when she and her escort, former Falcons' star Jamal Anderson, took a seat near the front. RHOA affiliate Lawrence was also there wearing a brown derby hat and bright red lipstick. And just before the arena went dark for Rihanna's grand entrance, T.I. obliged requests for cellphone snaps as he took his seat up front.

Then there were the uncelebrities. As much as people decry arena concerts for the lack of intimacy and subpar sound, the people watching at Philips Arena is worth every bit of the exorbitant ticket price. My complimentary seat was $146. Which means I had a pretty decent side view of Robyn Rihanna Fenty in all her bad-ass Barbadian glory - from her hip winding island swag to those thigh-high white boots. But if I had binoculars last night, I would've had them trained on the crowd at least 70 percent of the time.

For the most part, Rihanna's listening demographic is a reflection of her music and her own obsessive sense of style: A lot of young same-sex couples. A lot of creatively dyed frohawks. A lot of virgin-cute high school girls with bad hairweaves traveling in rabid packs. And a few Chris Brown look-alikes with dates in tow. It was pretty much a racially ambiguous crowd with brown overtones. And the age-range went from 15 to young-at-heart. The closest thing to a prerequisite seemed to be tights: tight shorts with big-girl booty meat hanging out the back, tight tights on wafer-thin peg legs, tighter skirts and high-waisted jeans in a constantly parading rainbow of colors.

"I was riding over here in the cab and all I saw was big booties, man. Atlanta's state animal on the back of a coin should just be a big booty, I swear. This next song is dedicated to all my big booty bitches."

That wasn't Rihanna, but her opening act A$AP Rocky, who followed up that bit of onstage banter with his appropriately titled song, "Pussy Money Weed." The Harlem MC's vulgarity didn't seem to put off the crowd in the least. This was an arena full of Rihanna fans mind you.

"ATL what the fuck! I've waited so long to come here, man. I've got so much love for Atlanta. I like y'all cause y'all ratchet."

That was Rihanna, welcoming the crowd at the start of her show, which included five outfit changes, each one sexier than the last, a team of eight female dancers, moving set pieces and video-projected images. RiRi's set list was broken up into digestible chunks: reggae ("You're the One," "Man Down," etc.), rave fist-pumpers ("We Found Love," "S&M," etc.), and, yes, ratchet love/strip club anthems ("Loveeeeeee Song," "Pour It Up," etc.), with the rest of her catalog thrown in between.

Still, I couldn't keep my eyes off the 50-something white suburban couple sitting in front of me. The way wifey was laughing and dancing and grinding on her husband, she had to be popping mollies. The two horny teenage couples in the row behind me could barely keep up. They practically tongue-kissed through ASAP Rocky's entire opening set until some woman who looked like their mother came and spoiled their fun.

The most interesting thing about Rihanna might be her ability to shape-shift into all things before her fan base: a sensitive siren in red sarong and halter singing WTF love ballads one moment, a coochie-popping Caribbean seductress giving herself over to the beat the next. She could care less about catering to the artifice of strained vocal perfection in her performances. Instead, she leaves plenty of room for fans to project whatever fantasies (and frailties) they want upon her. And apparently she doesn't mind obliging the freakiest among us. It's what makes her a pop idol in an industry full of rinse-and-repeat divas.

Fitting then that she reportedly spent the rest of her night dropping dollars in one of Atlanta's finer establishments. Word to Magic City.

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