November 18, 2012


Rihanna Has a Few Difficulties, Technical and Otherwise, in Paris

Mark Loucks for Fuse
Mark Loucks for Fuse

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. On Day 4, we head to Paris and experience a few live show bumps.

"Have you seen Rihanna?" one journalist asked me while waiting in the airport at Stockholm en route to Paris for the singer's 777 Tour. It was a joke, given that she's performing every night, but with a layer of truth. After parading up and down the aisles passing out champagne and cognac during the first day, the singer's kept to herself for the majority of the trip.

It's not like there's an outright revolution brewing, but at the halfway point of the tour, more than a few people—fans and media alike—have noted the time crunches, long travel delays and lack of Rihanna interaction. Getting 200 people anywhere is admittedly tough, and that we haven't lost anyone (to my knowledge) is a minor miracle. Still, it's murky territory. On one side, some people expected more from the singer past the first day's paparazzi blitz. Yet Rihanna could reasonably make the case that everything she does that's not sleeping or partying with fans at after-parties would interfere from the shows, ostensibly her first priority.

It brings up questions that, given the unprecedented nature of the tour, don't have clear-cut answers: To what extent is an artist responsible for media interaction? Is it enough to bring people to shows if you're not interacting? Are certain unhappy attendees rightfully disgruntled or taking the trip for granted?

It didn't help that last night's Paris show started strong, but ended as the most underwhelming. The 1,500-capacity Le Trianon theatre felt the most intimate so far, and when the singer opened with "Cockiness" and "Birthday Cake," you could feel the floor tremble beneath you from both the bass and fans jumping up and down. "I couldn't wait to get to Paris," Rihanna told the crowd. "You guys have the best energy in the world." It was a platitude that wouldn't even be noticed except that it was actually true. After getting boos for mentioning sponsor HTC (is there France/HTC beef I don't know about?), the singer got through "Man Down" and "Only Girl (In the World)" before experiencing issues with her mic. The finger-pointing and visible scowling began and the energy never returned to the room.

As an unfortunate coincidence, the venue's curfew restrictions forced Rihanna to shorten her set from the usual 70 minutes to 45, eschewing the acoustic section at past shows. Perhaps sensing that if she didn't address the curtailed set, some of the hundreds of journalists present would, Rihanna told the crowd, "I'm going to skip a whole section and do a new song." It was an understandable, if awkward, attempt to assuage a diehard crowd who most likely would wonder why their favorite ballads were left off the set list.

According to Us Weekly, Rihanna was unhappy that she wasn't spending more time with the group and decided to throw an after-party in Paris "just for the core group of press and fans on the trip." The best laid plans... When she arrived at 2:50 am, fans from the plane were pushed aside by security when Diddy, Pharrell, Cassie, Omarion and Akon arrived. Her next-day plane naps after a night partying with Diddy et al. may go a long way to explaining why we're not seeing much of her on this trip.

So the one nagging question that everyone not on the trip asks—is it fun?—has no clear answer. Unique and once-in-a-lifetime? No question. Brief, albeit exaggerated, insight into what it's like to be a high-profile touring artist? For sure. But the vibe, at least for one day, seems to be in flux. We'll see how this goes for the next few days.

Total distance traveled: 11,127 miles
Next stop: Berlin

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