Rihanna’s world tour ended Friday night in New Orleans when her dancers brought drinks onstage for a toast at the end of the encore.
“It was epic,” she said of the night, her first appearance in New Orleans since she performed at the Make it Right Gala in 2012, and her first concert in the city since she played the Essence Music Fest 10 years ago.
The audience seemed to feel the same, screaming for Rihanna from the moment she hit the stage at the New Orleans Arena.
The Diamonds World Tour took the singer to five continents in a little less than a year, and by contemporary arena-show standards, it was modest.
Mobile video screen panels formed a wall behind the singer as she offered a prayerful “Mother Mary” while dressed modestly in a long black smock. The screens moved to hang over the rear of the stage to display colors or images at times, and they came together during “Rude Boy” to show images of Rihanna as an outlaw, including faux wanted posters and mug shots.
The stage consisted of a series of elevators that raised and dropped band members and instrument configurations in different places, but there were none of the groundbreaking theatrics of Beyoncé’s “Mrs. Carter” Tour, nor any large-scale production numbers. Instead, the night relied on Rihanna’s charisma, which was clearly enough for her fans.
The evening was broken into segments including a reggae and dance-hall suite of songs, and heavier, rock-oriented sequences that showed off her band leader, guitarist Nuno Bettencourt, of Extreme. He posed behind her during “Rockstar 101,” which ended with the band quoting a moment from The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again,” complete with that group’s laser lights.
The crowd loved Rihanna, whose carefree, elfin presence took the edge off melodramatic moments and the rudeness out of crotch-centered dance moves. She was convincingly emotional during “What Now,” about the pain that can accompany love, but the show was usually on stronger ground when she kept it playful.
She bounced onstage in a silver, reflective jacket and tennis dress for the electronic dance-focused section with “We Found Love” and generated the biggest surge of energy since the start of the show.
At the end of a long tour, it wouldn’t have been surprising if the performance betrayed a little wear and exhaustion, but that wasn’t the case Friday night. Rihanna’s family flew in from Barbados and sat at the lip of the stage, and she clearly enjoyed the moment.
“It’s been an amazing year,” she said, and it was a lovefest of a night. It’s hard to imagine that it will be another decade before she returns.