- 22 Jun 16
The Bajan pop star was in fine form last night.
While many of Rihanna's initial pop peers fizzled out years ago (farewell Christina Milian and Co., we hardly knew ye....), it's a testament to the pulling power and work ethic of the performer to see the Aviva crammed with punters this evening, all eager to catch an eyeful of an artist who has matured into a seemingly unstoppable force of nature. Back on the road after a brief break, the Bajan singer has reinvented herself with eighth album Anti, which, at its core is a vehicle to help RiRi re-brand herself as a “serious artist” and we're more than a little keen to see how it goes down live.
Clearly currently taking lessons at Axl Rose's School Of Time-Keeping, Rihanna arrives 30 minutes late on a podium in the centre of the stadium for a rendition of 'Stay'. Backed by a piano and pushing that unmistakeable voice to its limits, the tear-jerking ballad might be a spine-tingling moment, but it's also an odd way to start a show. Speaking of tears, she openly weeps after second song 'Love The Way You Lie' and the breakdown causes a wave of support and sympathy sobs from her fans pretty soon afterwards (I swear there was something in my eye....). Giving herself both a literal and metaphorical shake, she travels to the main stage in a precarious looking see through tube and proceeds to deliver a master class in stadium pop. There's highlights aplenty, including a muscular run through of the thrillingly edgy 'Bitch Better Have My Money' and a mash up of 'Live Your Life/Run this Town' which has the audience singing as one. Ever the flatterer, she later remarks “I only have ever in my life heard an audience of people scream so loud that they sound like one voice and that only happens in Ireland, in Dublin... Thank you so much.” As much as tonight is about Anti, Rihanna wisely realises that many punters want to hear the hits and she dutifully delivers some of them. Skilfully juggling crowd favourites with newer, more prickly material, when she belts out 'Umbrella', 'Man Down' and 'Rude Boy' all in quick succession and without breaking a sweat it's a reminder of how many massive songs she has. In fact, the only downside of this evening's show is the likes of 'Hard', 'S&M' and 'S.O.S', all sadly didn't make the cut. Fingers crossed for next time. Undeniable highlight is the stunning 'Love On The Brain'. Essentially a '50s torch song given a welcome twist, her voice is remarkable throughout and that chorus is a classic. Honourable mention also goes to 'Diamonds', which sees the Aviva transformed into a mobile phone lit, twinkling wonderland as everyone sings the hook.
Would we have liked a little longer with the singer? Most definitely, but there's a lot to be said for leaving a crowd wanting more and after nearly 90 minutes she left little doubt that she remains the biggest pop star on the planet. Job done.