Anyone that knows me knows I am a Rihanna Navy member through and through, no ifs ands or buts about it. I love that woman! I love her music, her style and the part of her personality that she exposes to us through social media. Yes even her use of crude words, she can do no wrong in my eyes (except when she wears basketball shorts with heels).
So when my cousin (who is a bigger fan than me) excitedly told me Rihanna would be coming to Johannesburg (which is 3-4 hours away from Gaborone by car) to perform my heart sank, because at the time I did not think it would be possible to go see her. Then the tickets went on sale and were sold out in a matter of hours. Fast forward months later and my partner in crime Michelle found someone reselling Golden circle tickets (the section right by the stage) online. We got the tickets the week of the concert and had to make quick travel plans to get to Johannesburg on time. We were pretty much crossing fingers and toes all week but by Friday night, everything was sorted. I went to sleep having not packed a damn thing but I was confident I would wake up early enough to pack and catch our 6:30am bus the next day. I did make it but Michelle overslept, and so followed a series of unfortunate events. In the end Michelle ended up on the bus with my luggage while I hitched a ride with her sister, Michelle’s luggage in tow.
Once we had arrived in Joburg, we got to relax a little. A friend of mine was hosting us and he kindly took us out to eat. We tried to party up a storm later that night but exhaustion got the better of us after an hour or so in the club. Pathetic.
The next day the running around began again, we had to collect tickets and find the nearest mall where we could catch a Park and Ride bus to the concert. By 3pm we were on the bus and because we were now around fellow Rihanna fans, the anticipation was beginning to build up. At the stadium, before disembarking we were told to be at the bus no more than 30 minutes after the end of the concert or we would be left behind. We took a leisurely stroll to the stadium with hundreds of other fans, occasionally stopping for a picture and being bombarded by vendors with Rihanna merchandise. The atmosphere was festival like with food stalls littered around the various gates and fashionably dressed fans milling around. We were of course more focused on finding a good spot by the stage so we wasted no time! We went through a series of well secured gates and queued up under a marquee where fans were waiting before the last gate to the entrance of the stadium. Once the last gate opened, it was chaos! Golden circle fans are so serious! Everyone broke into a sprint, yes a sprint for the entrance, including me! Haha! If you took your time, you’d end up being further away from the stage so you had to run. We raced up some stairs into the stadium practically pushing the security staff out of the way. When we were in the stadium corridor, a security man was yelling for us to control ourselves. He succeeded in separating us and allowing fans on to the field in groups. But the hard work had been done and Michelle and I got a spot right by the front of the thrust (elongated, runway like performance space that juts out from the stage-yes I googled that). We were behind two rows but by the time the show was about to start some fans had given up their spots and we ended up in the 2nd row. It was not for the weak, we all stood for about 2 hours before the show.
Between 7:30pm-8:00pm the opening act came on stage. Two techno dance DJs called GTA. They put some life back into us with their erratic music but after 15 minutes my brain was tired of the heavy bass that didn’t seem to change from song to song. When they finally left the stage, everything went black and we started excitedly craning our necks trying to figure out if the moving shadows were Rihanna and her crew. Then screams erupted when we spotted a group of females enter backstage. The dancers took their positions in the dark and then the lights came on just as “Fresh off the Runway” blared out from the speakers. Rihanna ran on to the stage in all her Barbadian glory.
We couldn’t hear her voice over the fans screaming but eventually it subsided as the song went on. The sound wasn’t so great at first but eventually they fixed the glitch and she became clearer. Rihanna didn’t walk down the ramp till she was well into her 3/4th song much to our annoyance but when she did she gave us quite a lot of face time, singing 2 songs right in front of us. She kept the party going with “Pour it up” and “Talk that talk” before she stopped to address the audience. She had to do the obligatory “Hello (insert country/city)! How are you doing tonight?! You ready to party?!”. After that she dove into her versatile music catalog performing “No love allowed”, “Man down”, “Jump”, “Numb”, “Rude boy”, “You da one” and many more. She gave us just over 45 minutes worth of music and she appropriately ended her set with “Diamonds”.
She had no major costume changes during her performance even though she would disappear off stage every few songs. Her dancers changed for pretty much every song they danced to though. They were quite energetic and blessed us with a short twerk during “Pour it up”. The stage lighting and graphics crew did a fantastic job! If Rihanna wasn’t succeeding in entertaining you, the lighting and graphics team picked up the slack. Her band didn’t slack either, especially her lead guitarist who had to keep us happy while she recovered back stage. As for lip syncing, yes she did but only for the songs where she had to dance like “Where have you been” and “Jump”. Her slower songs were clearly live because she changed some of the melodies. I left feeling thoroughly satisfied! She could have not done any more for me except maybe throw me her spiked cap… Any longer than 45 minutes and my legs would have given out. The night did not end without drama though, Michelle and I exited out of the wrong gate so we then spent a good 30 minutes trying to locate our bus in the freezing temperatures of Joburg. It was horrible! I think we walked around half the stadium and when we finally located the right parking area we were miserable, frozen and worried the bus had left us. Luckily traffic was heavy so we found our bus on the road. Then someone threw up on the bus so we could not close the windows either. However despite the icy wind I managed to fall asleep during the drive back to the mall. At the mall we had trouble finding a cab that knew where we were so we had to wait another 15-20 minutes in the cold. It felt like heaven when we got into our comfortable warm cab, a Mercedes Benz E-class. I’m telling you, it’s the only way to travel!
I did all this for Rih and I do not regret a thing! Would do it again in a heartbeat! Apparently Kendrick Lamar is performing in Joburg some time next year…hmmm….more pictures below…