Review by Tom Frodsham
Arguably the world’s most famous female performer right now, Rihanna brought her Diamonds World Tour to Manchester on Wednesday night – with a second show to follow on Thursday.
RiRi was back doing the rounds and since she didn’t tour with the last album (‘Talk That Talk’) she’s combined the material from Unapologetic to form the core set list of this tour.
Rihanna began the show over an hour late. But worth the wait she was. Kneeling on the floor in a prayer like position surrounded by darkness, wearing a black and gold cape Rihanna started the show with a solemn rendition of confessional track ‘Mother Mary.’
The first section was staged very Versace-esque, broken Ancient Greek pillars, and monochrome patterned screens around the set-which must be a running theme as nearly every girl in the audience was wearing something black and white. Dancers wore head to toe black outfits with black baseball caps and chunky gold jewellery, which reminded me of Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation aesthetic. Outfits for the tour were designed in collaboration with Riccardo Tisci of Givenchy and Raf Simons from Dior. Many of the outfits were made to represent “female empowerment and urban haute couture elegance” according to a representative from Givenchy.
‘Cockiness (I Love It)’ brought on some slutty choreography even Madonna would blush at, with other sexually explicit tracks such as ‘Birthday Cake’ and ‘Talk That Talk’. Rihanna performed with ease, literally skipping around the stage gyrating to every beat, never once did her stamina slow down. You can tell that she loves performing to a crowd; she seemed happy and beaming throughout. She really spoke to the audience and never forgot who she was there for. Rihanna kept up the momentum, chatting to the crowd, and getting us to “SING THAT SHIT MANCHESTEEEER!!”
As with many tours there’s a “Ballads” section (a.k.a the toilet break.) Wearing a draped halter neck red gown baring her midriff, Rihanna performed in the centre of a revolving set exposing every part of her as she sung ‘Love The Way You Lie’, ‘Take A Bow’ and ‘Hate That I Love You’. It’s as though the tracks of her pre-Umbrella days never existed as throughout the show none were even recognised. Maybe it was a time she’d like to forget, after all, who remembers ‘We Ride’? No, me neither.
Her biggest hits are probably her more up-tempo and dance oriented singles and clever RiRi saved these tracks for the penultimate section of the show. Decked out wearing a silver metallic jacket made of money, Rihanna performed the massive ‘We Found Love’ having fun singing with the front row of the crowd. The stage screens emulated a nightclub with neon graphic imagery and laser lights gleaming out to the arena. Building up the momentum Rihanna performed ‘Only Girl In The World’, ‘S & M’ and ‘Don’t Stop The Music’ and last but not least the incredible ‘Where Have You Been’, which was probably the best dance choreography of the night.
Before departing us, Rihanna performed the singles from the Diamonds album for the encore. ‘Stay’ was sung beautifully. Rihanna’s voice has got a hell of a lot stronger throughout her career. I doubt 5 years ago she would have been able to sound so soulful when performing live. Of course – you guessed it; last track of the night was ‘Diamonds’. Stunningly lit, the stage was a composition of the galaxy, shimmering lights and bright stars. A perfect way to end the show that was full of a variety of musical genres, innovative set design and choreography that appealed to Rihanna’s inner stripper.