I have issues with Rihanna. She knows her way around a killer single better than anyone - as her impressive chart run attests - but the poor man's Shontelle is yet to release a decent album and I just don't buy her frequent image changes. Is she the edgy Grace Jones wannabe from "Rated R" or the happy go lucky sex addict circa "Loud"? Riri strikes me as the ultimate record company product - a blank canvas tarted up by a panel of music execs to fit the latest trend - but she tops the charts more regularly than Toni Braxton files for bankruptcy, so who am I to judge? I guess I was just hoping to catch a glimpse of the woman behind the machine at last night's concert. It didn't happen. There is something incredibly impersonal about Rihanna. She came across as surprisingly sweet, looked absolutely stunning and, when she wasn't miming or singing over a backing track, sounded less offensive than I remember. But the Bajan beauty still seemed to be going through the motions. Regardless, it was a fun show and I would go back and see her again. She just needs to watch Beyoncé's "I Am... World Tour" DVD on repeat for a couple of days to see how a real diva does it.
The show began on a high. Riri emerged from under a catwalk to sing along to a recording of "Only Girl (In The World)". She looked beautiful in a long red wig and dress made of flowers and appeared a lot more at ease than she did during the "Rated R" numbers. I should point out that Rihanna brought her "Last Girl On Earth" tour to Australia (ie. the "Rated R" tour) not the "Loud" tour she's about the kick off in the States. Happily, she threw in a couple of new songs - all of which sounded better than the dirge from her last album. Speaking of crap, "Hard" was next. That was followed by a rock version of "Shut Up And Drive". You couldn't really understand a word she was singing but it was probably for the best. After yet another "Rated R" stinker - "Fire Bomb" - things livened up again with a eerie rendition of "Disturbia". I had forgotten how awesome that song is. I went for a piss when I heard the opening verse of "Rockstar 101" but, happily, I made it back to see Ri-cycle mime "S&M". Her performance was great and I'm slowly coming around to "Loud". She just seems so happy and relaxed singing along to songs from that album. It's kind of contagious! The fun part of the first half concluded with one of the highlights from "Rated R". A filthy rendition of "Rude Boy". M.I.A. would be so proud.
Sitting through a live Rihanna ballad medley is almost enough to make you forgive Chris Brown. "Hate That I Love You" sounded retched, "Love The Way You Lie" (an absolutely epic song) just made the grade, while her wailing through "Unfaithful" solved Sydney's pigeon problem. I was genuinely excited when Riri switched it up by belting out her lesbian stalker anthem "Te Amo". I still think it is one of the best tracks she's ever recorded. That was followed by "What's My Name?" and a roof raising performance of "Don't Stop The Music". Girlfriend should have kept the old school hits coming. Where was "We Ride" and "Pon De Replay"? Instead we got "Breakin' Dishes" and a cover of "The Glamorous Life" - an obvious and appreciated nod to Australia's iconic queen of pop Melissa Tkautz. "Let Me" and "SOS" weren't particularly memorable - probably because she gave them the shitty "Rated R" rock treatment, but I loved her rendition of "Take A Bow". Which is probably my favourite Rihanna song of all time. It was as good a point as any to end the concert. Even though Riri didn't get the standing ovation they were obviously hoping for when they turned the camera on the audience. Rudeness, Sydney. Her encore was a crappy medley of "Wait Your Turn", "Live Your Life" (another fave of mine) and "Run This Town" - which included footage of Bey's husband. Aww. Rihanna's final number was a monumentally fabulous take on "Umbrella" - while suspended above the stage on what appeared to be a giant pogo stick with jets blowing pieces of red tinsel into the air. A cute way to end a pleasant if not mindblowing show.