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LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Barbados-born beauty Rihanna isn't easy to forget. Without overly choreographed dance moves, her smoldering stare, powerful voice and swaggering strut are enough to captivate a packed house for nearly two hours.
After Cee Lo Green suddenly backed out of the "Loud" tour due to a packed schedule, there were concerns over whether Rihanna and opener J.Cole could hold down the fort and keep ticket holders happy. Fans at the Staples Center on Tuesday hoping to rock out to an uncensored version of "Forget You" and "Bright Lights Bigger City" were undoubtedly disappointed with J.Cole's extremely short set, not because he isn't talented, but because his style of music is a whole different machine.
There are very few performers who could replace Green and his outrageously colorful stage presence, though B.o.B. (who will open on other select dates) would have likely been a more welcomed act.
Opening with "Only Girl (In The World)," Rihanna set the tone for the rest of the show with plenty of bright neons and shiny costumes. Donning a short metallic blue coat and bright pink glow-in-the-dark heels, the singer stood out amongst her dancers (all clad in neon hues) with muted tones flashing on the large background screens. Quickly transitioning in "Disturbia," Rihanna stripped off the coat and flaunted her assets in a jeweled bikini, alternating between strutting across each side of the stage and gliding along a moving conveyor belt.
While the Los Angeles audience was filled with fans donning copy-cat red locks, one elderly man got more than he bargained for when Rihanna pulled him on stage during her performance of "Skin." She proceeded to lay him down on a circular platform while gyrating up and down the top of his body before the platform descended underneath the stage. The crowd, obviously, went wild.
Also flitting through the crowd were several young girls between the ages of five and ten. Clad in bright colors and sparkly dresses, many wore earplugs and were accompanied by their mothers. Following the show, they may need to have a conversation about why Rihanna, wearing a tuxedo, suggestively poked and prodded nearly-naked female dancers with a cane during a cover of Prince's "Darling Nikki." Then again, maybe not.
Somewhat surprisingly, one highlight of the night came when the 23-year-old slowed things down for "Unfaithful" and "Hate That I Love You," both of which had the audience chiming in full force. She continued the mid-show slow-down with "California King Bed," in which she stood alone at center stage with just a mic stand and her expressive facial movements, captured and relayed on the jumbo screens.
Rihanna didn't stay confined to the stage, either. At one point, she walked through the audience to the middle of the floor where she took to a drum set and pounded away. Later, in a move reminiscent of Green, Rihanna made her encore with "Love the Way You Lie (Part II)" while perched atop a floating (and spinning) piano.
To finish out the show, she brought the house down with a high energy rendition of "Umbrella."
Noticeably absent from the set list was her breakout 2005 hit "Pon de Replay," which was only played during a brief video interlude, and fan favorite circa 2006, "SOS."
During a summer which finds her competing with Britney Spears and Katy Perry, Rihanna is a welcome change of pace for pop lovers. The "Loud" tour keeps the dancing simple, remains visually striking in its wardrobe rather than its set and most importantly, boasts real powerhouse vocals throughout the entirety of the show.