East Rutherford, New Jersey
The Loud Tour was turned up a few levels from its usual decible meter at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, New Jersey on July 21st, 2011. This wasn't because Rihanna had another eye-dropping wardrobe change or because she ran through the aisles of the crowd for the third time that night. No,t his was a much bigger "Concert Event" moment.
During the few minutes after the last song of her set "Take a Bow", fans observed a cop car pull up to the right side of stage in the backstage area. The most observent fans, one of which happened to be my wife, could also hear a faint microphone check. It was a male's voice who simply made the noise "uh-huh uh-huh". I did not believe her when she said she heard that as I did not want to set my hopes up. Of course, she was eluding to the fact that she thought Jay-Z was doing a mic check. Much to my suprise, she was indeed correct.
Rihanna came out of her encore to large flames on the giant screens behind her. She sang only the chorus to her song with Eminem "Love the Way You Lie". She walked a few feet forward, stopped, and froze. All of a sudden, a figure arose from a circular platform underneath the stage. The man stood still, facing down, and was wearing a Yankees hat pulled down low over his eyes. But everyone in the building knew exactly who it was and the place erupted.
Jay-Z is arguably the greatest rapper of all time. I certainly make the argument that he is. No one has had more longevity in the Hip-Hop/Rap Genre. He came out with his first cd back in 1995 has sold approximately 50 million records worldwide, and has eleven #1 records (the most of any artist, in any genre, all time). After arising from the stage and standing still looking down for approximately ten seconds, you could feel that everyone in the IZOD Center that night felt the same appreciation for him, that I have. The applause and screams were deafening. He and Rihanna then put their hands in the air and made the diamond symbol that fans know as the "Roc" symbol. The crowd responded in doing the same.
Jay-Z and Rihanna then performed their mega-hit "Run This Town" together. Rihanna looked to be as big of a fan of Jay-Z's as everyone else in the building as she was all smiles while running around in admiration of her mentor. Jay-Z's smooth rapping style and vintage moves were in full effect as they executed the song flawlessly.
Of course, everyone knew that this appearance would not be limited to one song. After all, Rihanna's first hit "Umbrella" was another song featuring Jay-Z. They broke right into that song after "Run This Town" and everyone sang along with their camera's flashing and their hands in the symbols of diamonds. Jay-Z quickly exited upon finishing his verse and left Rihanna on stage alone to finish out her song.
Rihanna's performance pre-Jay-Z was a mixed bag for me. The good: she had a lot of energy, a multitude of extravagant costume changes, and high level production. The bad: she seemed to be lip singing at times and I was confused by the background dancers in various songs (including men dressed as robots who destroyed a car on stage at one point).
Overall, it was an entertaining and fun show. She did not have much interaction with the crowd between songs other than statements such as "What's up Jersey", which she said over and over again, and also "Get Your F****ing Hands Up", which was not necessary since there were so many children in the crowd. She was at her best on her more sensitive and slower songs, when she was dressed in a very impressive yellow gown.
She also ran through the crowd a few times which gave the fans quite the treat. She even stopped at the back end of the floor opposite the stage to bang on a drum at one point. It was a bit cheesy, but no one seemed to mind. For me, that seemed to be the theme of the night (until Jay-Z showed up), it was colorful, fun, and sort of cheesy, yet everyone was having a good time.
But in the end, as much as Rihanna put forth her best efforts, Jay-Z upstaged her. I do not think she minded at all as she owes a lot of her career to him. In the end, it was a great surprise and left everyone in the building more than satisfied. Uh-huh, uh-huh.
1. Only Girl In the World
3. Shut Up and Drive
4. Man Down
5. Darling Nikki
7. Let Me
9. Raining Men
11. Breaking Dishes
12. Live Your Life
14. California King Bed
15. Pon de Replay
16. What's My Name
17. Rude Boy
19. Don't Stop The Music
20. Take A Bow
21. Love The Way You Lie (chorus only)
22. Run This Town with special guest: Jay-Z
23. Umbrella with special guest: Jay-Z