Rihanna last performed in Adelaide in 2008 with then-boyfriend Chris Brown. And what a difference a few years make. 3 Grammys, 2 albums, a domestic violence case and countless hairstyles later, Robyn Rihanna Fenty has cemented herself as 21st century pop royalty. With as many big hits, sexy music videos and raunchy outfits as she’s had, I really had high hopes for this one.
The show worked as a hybrid of sorts – meshing last years Last Girl On Earth Tour (loosely based on a story of Rihanna being, yes you guessed it, the last girl on earth) together with her more recent Loud offerings. Opening number Only Girl (In The World) (if you say you haven’t heard the song, you’re lying) set the bar high. In her straight red wig and bright floral mini-dress, the Barbadian popette seemed a world away from the edgy Rated R-era that the tour was originally based on. While the more aggressive numbers like Hard, Fire Bomb, Disturbia and Rockstar 101 were better suited to The Last Girl On Earth concept, it was clear which songs were the biggest crowd pleasers – Rude Boy, Unfaithful, What’s My Name and current ARIA #1 S&M drawing the loudest cheers.
Chains and whips aren’t the only thing that Riri likes to play with. She gyrated atop a giant hot pink army tank, grinded up on towers of television sets, and even played the drums during a cover of Sheila E’s The Glamorous Life. There was a refreshing and much needed sense of humour and spontaneity during these parts, which was sadly, all too short lived.
Including her featured singles Love The Way You Lie, Live Your Life and Run This Town did little but reaffirm that Rihanna’s guest appearances in each song are the only thing that ever made them any good to begin with, really. Props must be given to Ms. Fenty though – she knows what her fans want to hear. She could have easily indulged in lesser known album tracks, but the setlist played like a greatest hits compilation.
It was hit and miss, however. The live band helped songs like Only Girl, SOS and Breakin’ Dishes find their footing, while a rock-tinged Don’t Stop The Music was proof enough that eighties hair metal and late noughties pop should never dance together. And the less said about the oddly anti-climatic encore Umbrella, the better.
Her high-profile live performances at the Grammys, BRITS and American Music Awards should have been good practice for the 23 year old, but at times she seemed awkward and uncomfortable on stage. That can be forgiven though; she was in fine (if not, perfect) vocal form the entire night, this best shown during the obligatory ballads/acoustic segment.
It ticked the boxes – live vocals, choreography, daring outfits? Check. But Rihanna’s stage presence (or lack thereof) would hardly leave Katy Perry or Lady Gaga shaking in their cupcake brassieres and meat dresses.
She’s had more reinventions and image changes then you can poke an umbrella at, and they were all on show for Adelaide. Next time, it would nice to see more of that famous individuality and swagger that she all too often sings about.