Fuse has been traveling with Rihanna as part of her 777 Tour, which finds the singer performing seven shows in seven countries in seven days. We kick off the journey with a raucous plane ride to Mexico led by RiRi herself.
"This is where you need to be. Everybody on this plane right now is the party. 777, bitch! You ready for a shot?"
Rihanna is walking up and down the aisles of Delta flight 8857 from Los Angeles to Mexico City one hour after takeoff, a bottle of Ace of Spades champagne and plastic cups in hand. Behind her is a team of videographers and bottle-handlers distributing shots of D'usse cognac to whoever's interested. "Don't be shy," says the singer to one passenger. "Grab a glass."
Rihanna does not normally play the role of stewardess, bartender, cruise director and, as our photo gallery proves, pilot on flights between shows, but there's little normal about what we're doing to cover the singer's upcoming seventh album Unapologetic. We're on the 777 Tour, a 12,000-mile, one-week trek in which the singer loaded up a Boeing 777 with more than 200 journalists and members of her fan club to play seven shows in seven countries in seven days.
Four hours earlier, Rihanna's label reps were ushering everyone from a Los Angeles hotel to waiting buses that would take us to LAX, doling out hypeman-worthy chants of "Are you ready for the 777 tour?! I can't hear you!" Summer camp has begun. In an era where everything is disseminated instantly, the trip itself was shrouded in Waiting For Guffman-esque mystery. We knew the cities: Mexico City, Toronto, Stockholm, Paris, Berlin, London, New York City, along with a rough itinerary, but the details? Would RiRi post up in seat 1A after everyone boarded and not talk to anyone the entire week? Would she be leading the plane in rousing renditions of "S&M" and "Only Girl in the World"? Would Chris Brown be dressing inappropriately, taking your seat and then ruining the ending of the in-flight movie just because? We had no idea.
The answer, to this leg at least, would come before takeoff, as Rihanna, interminably charismatic, paced the plane to say hello, yelling to no one and everyone, "This is some presidential sh-t!" Yes and no. This was some regal sh-t, as one of pop's current queens waved and small-talked with her minions. After chatting with her temporary 200-person entourage and taking pictures with Rihanna Navy members lucky enough to win tickets, she hopped on the PA to address the plane. "This is an emergency. This is an emergency. Code 777. Who's ready for Mexico? Who's ready for tequila? Everybody get your ass in your seat, buckle up your seatbelt and let's get drunk!"
This would not be a quiet flight. Picture a cross between the airplane scene in Almost Famous and Spring Break en route to Cancun and you get the idea. Rihanna (or, more likely, Def Jam) gifted each person with a bag containing a watch, a toiletry kit, Rihanna's Nude fragrance and, most notably, a real diamond. "Everybody look in your gift bag right now," said the singer over the PA system. "There is a teeny little string in there and it looks sh-tty and cheap but if you read the fine print, it's a real diamond. It's conflict-free and you can never say you never had a diamond in your life. Give it to somebody special."
When we touch down in Mexico City and are bussed to El Plaza Condesa, the 1,900-person site of tonight's show, it's chaos, as street merchants hawk photos of the singer while the sound of a salsa band blasts in a nearby club.
The 70-minute, 17-song set functioned more as a Greatest Hits concert than Unapologetic preview. Sure, the crowd heard "Diamonds" and new track "Fresh Out the Runway," the latter a synth-heavy industrial-lite pop track that grinds like the nicer cousin of "S&M." Tonight's set, though, focused on the guaranteed homers. "Only Girl (In the World)," "Umbrella" and "We Found Love" all elicited the reactions you'd expect from a diehard Rihanna crowd (or "Mexican Navy" as the singer christened them). RiRi appeared loose, playing and experimenting with notes, drinking tequila and amping up the Mexican crowd simply by saying, "Por favor."
The 6-piece backing band, which included former Extreme guitarist Nuno Bettencourt, teased the crowd with subtle changes. "What's My Name" was anchored briefly by Tyga's "Rack City," Shirley Bassey's "Diamonds Are Forever" introed "Diamonds" and "Where Have You Been" opened with the piano line from "Take Care" (a harbinger for a Drake appearance in Toronto?). The adjustments were brief, but striking enough to keep both the band and crowd alert. Rihanna, dressed in black leather, performed the requisite crotch taps and ab rolls, balancing arena-ready spectacle (lasers, smoke machines) with the relative intimacy of the small crowd.
After tonight's show, the group immediately ran back to the buses to get on a plane to Toronto. This no longer feels like summer camp so much as The Amazing Race (Your next clue is in a Canadian city that ends in a vowel. Go!). Slightly bleary-eyed, we travel on.
Total distance traveled: 4,002 miles (including New York to Los Angeles)
Next stop: Toronto
1. Cockiness (Love It)
2. Birthday Cake
3. Talk That Talk
4. Wait your Turn
5. Man Down
6. Only Girl (In the World)
9. Fresh Off the Runway
11. Take A Bow
12. Hate That I Love You
13. Where Have You Been
14. What's My Name
15. Run This Town/Live Your Life medley
16. All Of the Lights
19. We Found Love
Watch Rihanna Party on the 777 Tour and Pass Out Champagne
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Rihanna Has a Few Difficulties, Technical and Otherwise, in Paris - Day 4 Update
Rihanna Performs for the 1 Percent in Stockholm - Day 3 Update
Yes, Rihanna Waits at Baggage Just Like Everyone Else - Day 2 Update