Last night Barbados-born babe Rihanna proved without a shadow of a doubt why she’s a worthy contender for Kylie’s pop crown by putting on an eye-popping performance in front of 8,000 fans in Belfast.
While her current album Rated R divided critics when it was first released in November 2009, her Last Girl On Earth Tour has received rave reviews across the globe thanks to its mesmerising mix of pyrotechnics, explosions and pure, undiluted pop hooks. She pulled out all the stops to banish the crowd’s Monday night blues.
The 22-year-old singer opened her set with the moody hit single Russian Roulette while clad in an eye-catching ballgown bedecked with hundreds of LEDs.
Rihanna shed most of her clothes as the evening wore on and wasted no time breaking out the big guns such as Shut Up And Drive and Rude Boy early on in the performance.
Keen to prove that she’s a bona fide musician in her own right, last night’s show was reassuringly free of backing tracks and lip-syncing.
Her band, led by Extreme guitarist Nuno Bettencourt, were defiantly loud and proud during rocked up versions of Disturbia and Don’t Stop The Music.
Visually, the concert rivalled Lady GaGa in the bizarre stakes and saw Rihanna not-so subtlely straddle a huge confetti spouting pink tank during Hard, while her half-naked backing dancers dressed up as monsters on stilts and flew through the air on trapezes dangling from two giant machine guns.
Directed by Madonna and Christina Aquilera’s former right-hand man Jamie King, the show told a futuristic Omega Man-esque story that pitted the singer as the last woman on Earth and employed huge slices of sexual imagery and comic violence to tell their tale.
Tellingly, though, the moments where Rihanna was stripped bare and free from the over-the-top theatrics were the most memorable.
During Hate That I Love You you could hear a pin drop in the Odyssey and it was on songs like that where she showed she was a pop star of true class.
Not surprisingly, the singer opted to end her show with her calling card Umbrella and it sounded as life-affirming as it did four years ago when it was first released, leaving the crowd in no doubt that Rihanna’s star is shining as brightly as ever.