Concert review: Rihanna in Auckland (+photos)

By Chris Schulz

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Rihanna performs at Vector Arena in Auckland. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Rihanna performs at Vector Arena in Auckland. Photo / Sarah Ivey

Booed for lateness in Adelaide. Allegedly drunk in Perth. Elsewhere accused of lip syncing, slurring her words, boring crowds with unknown songs and covering it up by engaging in shockingly explicit simulated sex acts.

Apart from her final show in Sydney, bad headlines plagued Rihanna during her recent Australian tour.

It wasn't a great start to her first sold out show of three in Auckland either. Kept waiting for 45 minutes, the crowd passed the time practising their Mexican waves and drinking cheap wine.

Thankfully, the Barbados-bred pop princess proved worth the wait.

Yes, Rihanna was late. Yep, some of her first-up songs - like the headache-inducing thump of Pour It Up - weren't among those that have made her a top-of-the-charts staple over the past five years.

And she sure loves grabbing that crotch of hers, often engaging in the kind of stripper antics - accompanied by a like-minded team of back-up dancers - that would send Miley Cyrus diving under her duvet.

But Rihanna soon showed she had the goods, emerging as a Mad Maxian-style goddess and belting out Rude Boy's catchy chorus, delivering You Da One's Jamaican reggae harmonies with ease, and thrilling with her now-signature Umbrella-ella-ella hooks.

Then there were her footstomping rave-pop No. 1s We Found Love and Only Girl (In the World) which came near the end of the show and turned Vector Arena into an underground nightclub complete with glow sticks, giant screens and a team of neon dancers.

And she can belt out a ballad with the best of them, proving her singing chops during an encore that included tearjerker Stay and rousing singalong Diamonds - even if the crowd drowned her out in places.

"You are the perfect audience, the ideal, it makes me want to always come back here," she praised afterwards.

Compared to the pinpoint precision of her last show here in 2008 with then boyfriend Chris Brown, Rihanna has a little bit of the "whatevs" about her these days - perhaps reflecting her status as a genuine pop superstar at the ripe old age of 25.

It's an attitude best summed up during set standout Rockstar 101, as Rihanna swaggered around the stage in a multicoloured jumpsuit, flicked her hair back and bellowed, "Oh baby I'm a rock star" over grunty guitar riffs while pyrotechnics flamed up behind her.

The metaphor wouldn't have been lost on her screaming fans: Rihanna's on fire, and despite her tardiness, this is one debauched pop party you don't want to miss.

Who: Rihanna
Where: Vector Arena, Auckland
When: Sunday, October 6

- nzherald.co.nz

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