While Adam Blackstone, Rihanna's musical director, told us that specific plans for the singer's 777 tour only came to fruition in October, guitarist Nuno Bettencourt admits that the idea of doing small club shows had been in the singer's head for years. "I remember her always saying that she wanted to do a small tour," says the former Extreme guitarist from Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris. "She always dreamed about doing House of Blues-sized rooms."
Bettencourt has been touring with Rihanna for three years and has become an integral part of the singer's inner circle. While the cities have changed each day—a dizzying, frenetic world tour spanning more than 10,000 miles in a week—the guitarist says Rihanna and the group have at least one regular ritual before the show. "We always look forward to prayer with her because that’s when we know where she’s at and whether she needs that little bit extra that night," Bettencourt says. "We don’t just do it as a ritual; it’s more like looking at each other and feeling each other out.
"I could be having something going on at home but looking fine and she’ll be like, 'What’s happening? What’s wrong? Tell me who it is. I’ll kill ‘em.' Sometimes she’ll tell us in prayer, 'I’m really feeling nervous tonight' and we have to re-establish her and she does the same thing for us."
Having 200 people with cameras waiting for a moment to pounce can have a weird effect on anyone's ego and mental state, yet Bettencourt insists that the singer does her best to stay a normal person. "She wants to maintain a normalcy in her life and be as human and regular as possible," says the guitarist, who says he'll get random phone calls from Rihanna to go bowling among other activities. "It’s hard to do that when everyone looks at you like that animal in a cage. She doesn’t pretend to be anything and what you see onstage is what you get. From day one, it was amazing how unbothered by anything she is and un-diva like she was. She knows what she wants, but she’s not the person that comes in barking orders at anybody. She listens and pays attention."
Bettencourt already has plans for the end of the grueling tour, involving another 777. "I told her, 'Last show: Seven shots in seven minutes in seven bars. We'll make it happen.'"