TAMPA — Oh, what does it all mean?
Rihanna, with her fire red hair and vinyl outfits aplenty, ambushed more than 14,000 fans with some pretty heady imagery at her Last Girl on Earth tour Friday in Tampa.
Guttural wails poured through the ubiquitous non-walls of the 1-800-ASK-GARY Amphitheatre. Rihanna traversed a war-torn stage in a dark, post-apocalyptic extravaganza. She played the role of only living girl left, and thusly our only hope for … something. We're not sure. Hot beats, maybe?
Riri has morphed from smiley Barbados island girl to stone-faced superstar, and she made her tour reflect that. She entered in dramatic (and fashionably late) fashion in a floor-length black gown covered in red LED lights. She sang Russian Roulette and shot acrylic nail finger guns at the crowd.
Video of a bloody, exploding heart gave way to her hit Hard. Soldiers with leather pants and hot pink rifles danced like the Barbie Dreamhouse Nationals after the nuclear fallout. Rihanna herself straddled a huge neon tank for the song's grand finale.
Ah, clarity. Rihanna was obviously attempting cultural commentary on the pervasiveness of firearms in mall juniors departments. We had it all figured out. And then …
Break-dancing crash test dummies. Spinning on their heads for Shut up and Drive. Huh?
For all the dark posturing, the show was clearly about fun, booty-shaking, sweaty entertainment, and that much it delivered. Even Rihanna glowed with moisture on the muggy night, letting the dew fling away into the ether.
She changed costumes — a sparkly unitard that climbed dangerously into Wedgeville City, a black plastic mesh number, a tarpy clown sleeve thing, a white cage jumpsuit.
Her throaty vibrato sailed on the ballads — a tormented Unfaithful, a sexy Rehab. She sorta-kinda played guitar on Rock Star 101. She writhed and shimmied for Rude Boy, a song that's basically about getting lucky. A quartet of guys who looked like Color Me Badd danced around her with cameras, flashing her enviable posterior region on grainy film.
A highlight of the night was a simple, stripped down mashup of Love the Way You Lie, her smash with Eminem (no surprise appearances from Slim Shady, sorry), coupled with a cover of B.O.B's hit Airplanes and her own Hate That I Love You.
It was all so simple then. No zombies or futuristic cages. Just pretty songs. We had answers.
We also had answers from opener Ke$ha, Jack Daniels enthusiast of raunchy Tik Tok fame. Her commentary left the audience with no philosophical stone unturned:
"This is a song about taking off your clothes!"
Thanks, Ke$ha, for balancing the universe.