Her hair was more rivetingly red than Raggedy Ann's, her outfits were more skin-revealing than Snooki's and her bells and whistles were more visually intoxicating than Times Square's on New Year's Eve.
No wonder Rihanna calls this her Loud Tour. Loud and Proud was more like it Thursday at Target Center.
At 23, the pop superstar is proud of her body, her beats and her bounce back from the beating by her then-boyfriend Chris Brown on the eve of the 2009 Grammys. Since then, Rihanna has dumped him, snared three Grammys and sent five songs to No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100. Now she's mounted the sexiest tour of the summer. At least until Britney Spears comes to town next month.
There were stripper poles, a lap dance for a female fan, simulated S&M and a butch presentation of Prince's "Darling Nikki," the song that got him in trouble with all those Washington wives back in the mid-1980s (before Robyn Rihanna Fenty was born).
There was a full-size pink tank (with RiRi firing the double guns), a floating piano (with her perched atop) and a metal cage (with her singing inside). The two-hour presentation was as gaudy as Gaga's, as glow-in-the-dark as the Black Eyed Peas' and as gay as Cher's (maybe gayer). It was an over-the-top triumph.
But not unqualified. Too often, the visuals made a stronger impression than the music. That's too bad because the songs covered a wide range of human emotions -- love, heartbreak, pain, resilience -- that added up to female empowerment.
In her first headline appearance in the Twin Cities, Rihanna sang -- no lip-syncing for this diva -- with force and conviction. (Her voice was loud.) The band's beats were banging, the guitars were rockin'. (The sound was very loud.) As a dancer, she's no Janet Jackson, but she has a nasty demeanor.
At times, the Barbados bombshell stripped it down -- and I don't mean her clothes. She sat down for the acoustic-guitar ballad "Hate That I Love You," stood front and center and roared on the big ballad "California King Bed" and poured her heart (and her nuanced voice) into "Unfaithful" as a giant fan blew her slit skirt like Celine Dion delivering "My Heart Will Go On" on the deck of the Titanic.
Rihanna drew heavily on material from her current "Loud" album (she did eight of its 11 songs), eschewing such early hits as "Pon de Replay" and "SOS." "Loud" numbers provided some of the highlights, especially the soaring "Love the Way You Lie" (with no Eminem raps included, but RiRi levitating over the stage atop a grand piano). But the loudest response from the nearly 9,000 fans came for the festive, disco-y "Don't Stop the Music" and the closing, surprisingly frills-free "Umbrella."
Opening act Cee Lo Green, the charming coach on NBC's "The Voice," introduced himself as "the foreplay" for Rihanna, but the blinged-out bald guy in a white track suit doing a track show (recorded music by a DJ) hardly got the crowd hot and bothered.
In what seemed like a low-budget club cameo, he teased with tastes of Prince's "When Doves Cry" and "Kiss" and misfired with his new version of Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" (remember, he is the singer in Gnarls) that had big-beat verses and sweeping orchestral choruses. Crazy, indeed. He finally got the crowd excited with his big hit, the kiss-off sensation "Forget You," letting the fans sing the refrain -- which were not the lyrics heard on the radio. Or sufficient foreplay.
Set list: www.startribune.com/artceteratwitter: @jonbream 612-673-1719