Much was made about low voter participation numbers in Tel Aviv Tuesday, but pop singer Rihanna got exactly the turnout she was expecting. The concert in Yarkon Park was sold out with nearly 55,000 people dancing to the music.
Maybe Rihanna should have run for mayor of Tel Aviv. This is only her second time performing in the White City, but she seemed to unite much of it, with an audience ranging from children to middle-aged couples, religious to secular, straight to gay.
Rihanna also shouted "Tel Aviv" about a dozen times, said she'd never forget the night, and did not stop flashing her megawatt grin for a moment, so she already sounds like she's a fan of the city. Plus, she couldn't be blamed for the low voter turnout, since she appeared on stage an hour late, minutes after the polls closed at 10 p.m.
Fans in the audience seemed to accept the diva's onstage apology for her more-than-fashionably late appearance, immediately cheering and jumping. Still, quite a few parents were seen ushering out their children early, perhaps because it was bedtime, or maybe because they didn't want impressionable young minds to see the 25-year-old from Barbados bumping and grinding on her microphone stand like a stripper on a pole to "Rock Star 101."
Rihanna did not disappoint as far as her notoriously in-your-face sexuality is concerned. She provided plenty of examples of the trendy dance twerking, which is, essentially, squatting and rapidly humping the air. For much of the show she danced around the stage in a black bra and a shredded black skirt with a giant layered pearl necklace and pearl tiara, like a sort of debauched Holly Golightly. She removed her tiara before the song "S&M," possibly because princesses don't sing lyrics like "chains and whips excite me," but probably because she swung her waist-length hair extensions in the air repeatedly.
The lights and effects in the show were effective and entertaining, especially the glamorous mug shots displayed on the big screens and gunshot sound effects during "Man Down," a song with the chorus "oh mama, I just shot a man down."
What was disappointing, however, was the singing. Rihanna showed off her chops in a few of the slower songs, like "All of the Lights" and "What's My Name," executing them beautifully, but the backing track dominated in most of the dance hits that made her a star. For "Umbrella," she quipped that "you all know the lyrics" and let the audience do the heavy lifting. In other songs like "Only Girl in the World," "Rude Boy" and "Where Have You Been," Rihanna seemed to only belt out the high notes for effect.
At least Rihanna kept her sense of humor, since at least part of the set list seemed to be a sort of word play. She left the stage after "Please Don't Stop the Music" and "Where Have You Been," and came back with "Stay."
Then, the pop singer concluded the concert with "Diamonds," the song that gave her world tour its name, thanked the crowd, and disappeared into the night, leaving Tel Aviv with the same mayor it had before Election Day.