ELLE's intrepid reporter Mark Ellen, is embedded on Rihanna's record-breaking 777 tour.
Here is his final dispatch from day seven on the road, and Rihanna's London concert.
The Rihanna 777 tour is headed for New York but your ELLE correspondent has now “de-planed” and is back at home in London wrestling with chilling aspects of the real world - like cooking, washing-up and having to *pay* for champagne rather than getting endless £400-a-pop bottles for free.
Eighteen thousand miles, seven countries in six days and – in my case – only 17 hours sleep. My pal from a “rival publication” and I began to wonder if we weren’t taking part in some bizarre new version of The Hunger Games where 150 journalists are put through a punishing physical and mental test and the one that’s still awake at the end of it gets the world exclusive with Rihanna. And sleeps through all five minutes of it.
There’s been a million highpoints – Mexican tequila bars, spectacular shows, the after-party in a baroque Swedish nightclub with Rihanna, P Diddy and Akon necking Dom Perignon served with sparklers – but very few moments when I thought the sleep-deprived lunacy had taken its toll. Apart from maybe arriving in Paris after two nights on the plane and being so thrilled to have a hotel room I found myself in hot bath with a gin and tonic eating a room-service Croque Monsieur and chips.
Last night’s aftershow at the Kentish Town Forum was a reminder that most members of the press pack had a lot less access than ELLE. Levels of Ri-deprived satanic suffering were so bad for some they’d renamed it the “666 Tour”, though things were looking up for Australian DJ Tim Dormer, the guy who’d decided on the flight to Berlin that if there wasn’t going to be any Rihanna press exposure he might as well expose *himself* to give them something to write about, and ran round the aisles stark naked. He told me last night he’d already given five interviews and was fast becoming an international celebrity.
But for the rest of the 150-strong press corps, things were much the same. One member of yesterday’s now legendary “Occupy 777” uprising – “Free the Rihanna 150!” - told me things were so bad that hacks were “reduced to interviewing each other about our own wardrobes” and posting blurred “drunkstagrams” snapped off the back of other people’s iPhones. “It’s all right for ELLE,” he cackled good-naturedly. “You’re probably eating cash sandwiches and sitting on cushions made of tiny diamonds. What time is it for ELLE Magazine on the Rihanna 777 tour?” and he laughed a hollow laugh. “Is it FIVE PAST FIFTY BUCKS?!”
Everyone was dumbfounded to note that Rihanna was only 75 minutes late on stage in London. Last night in Berlin she was four hours 35 minutes behind schedule and her week-long breathtaking non-punctuality is rumoured to have cost her £200,000 in fines just to be allowed to get her jet off the ground after habitually busting airport curfews. But you have to admire her shameless appetite for promotion. She’d swung by Stratford’s Westfield Centre at four in the afternoon in an oversized blazer and striped suit to be paid £500,000 to turn on the Christmas lights, and when asked what she wanted for Christmas she said “a sold-out tour”.
She now sashayed onstage in Kentish Town and sparked up some very 21st Century audience participation – “Hey everybody, say HTC!” (Obedient cries of HTC!!). “Say Budweiser!” (Budweiser!!) “Say River Island!” (Etc!!). “Thanks to our sponsors, we couldn’t do this without them!”
London gave her the warmest reaction of the tour so far. The Mexicans were so busy videoing her they barely applauded, the Canadians seemed curious and slightly detached, the Swedish were cool but eventually won over (much like the Parisians) and the Germans were so exhausted by the 275-minute delay they could barely muster the strength to boo.
But the British went mental from the off - Cara Delevingne, Chloe Moretz, Nick Grimshaw and Pixie Lott in the crowd, we noted - and got some of her best dance moves, tiny tottering high-heeled steps followed by slow knee-spreading manoeuvres while stroking herself lasciviously like a high-class hooker.
She gets the maximum amount of impact from the least amount of physical movement - and makes all of that seemed effortless. “*So* much better than last night,” her guitarist Nuno Bettencourt told me at the aftershow (yes, him from Extreme). “You could hear the silence when we came on in Berlin as they were so p****d off we were late. But these guys were amazing and loved it from the start.”
Her Delta 777, aka the bling airbus, is now en route to New York for the final show which I can’t attend - work to do, seriously! – and my adorable gang of five, onboard via River Island, are probably munching their way through another box of Laduree macaroons and about to tweet a picture of Rihanna at a luggage carousel.
Out of her 15 giant duffel bags will come the final of the tour’s seven looks. And, who knows, she may even say hello to a journalist or one of the 50-strong Rihanna Navy who’ve won competitions to be onboard. It’s a relief not to hear the constant panicked cry of “Oh my god I can’t get any WiFi!” from fellow bloggers or the desperate pleas for a wireless phone-charger, but the rest of it I’m very sad to leave. Hilarious madness from start to finish, an epic great shiny bank-busting extravagance in a music industry supposedly in decline.
I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.