Rihanna thrills fans at Abu Dhabi’s du Arena

Rihanna delivered a slick and engaging performance at du Arena. Here are some highlights.

Rihanna in concert at the du Arena in Yas Island in Abu Dhabi on October 19, 2013. Christopher Pike / The National
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Thumping time

A thoroughly enjoyable affair, the 90-minute performance was split between thumping tracks from Rihanna’s new album Unapologetic and hits culled from her previous albums.

The casual listener would have enjoyed the set list, but the diehard fan would have been disappointed, with the omission of her earlier hit SOS and any tracks from Rihanna’s debut album, Music of the Sun.

The opening section was dedicated to the decadence of the tracks Unapologetic, Numb and Pour It Up, all amplified by the backing of LED visuals of lavish jewellery and extravagant Roman archways.

Jump had all the drama of a WWE bout, with fire cannons going off during each chorus, while Rockstar was backed up by kitschy images of a Rihanna-headlined horror movie.

The only time the show lagged was in the turgid ballad section of What Now and Loveeeeeee Song, which exposed the limitations of Rihanna’s voice, best adopted over big beats or cushioned by a synth. The encroaching boredom was blown away by the dance-heavy finale of S&M, Only Girl (In the World), Please Don’t Stop the Music and, of course, the tour anthem, Diamonds.

Toning it down

Rihanna’s risqué tour outfits caused much controversy throughout her latest trek. However, as in her earlier Moroccan concert, the singer respected local customs by ditching her rather salacious items.

The 25-year-old singer performed the majority of the show in a sporty all-white outfit consisting of a tank top, baggy trousers and high-top trainers. Behind the singer was a flowing train of white fabric fastened to her hat that resembled a giant do-rag. The effect was equal elegance and ghetto.

No attitude

She may enjoy presenting an obnoxious attitude when it comes to the media but Rihanna was mostly smiles on stage. Her persona throughout the show reflected the song choices. In Phresh Out the Runaway she was all hip-hop swagger. The menacing attitude continued in Pour it Up and Cockiness before she lightened the mood with the Caribbean-inspired selections You Da One, Man Down and the slinky Rude Boy.

The super-confident attitude made way for something more reflective, for the ballad What Now. In the only moment addressing her troubled love life, Rihanna preceded her performance with the understatement that it’s about “how complicated love can be”.

At least she’s consistent

RiRi’s concert punctuality has not always been her strongest point. The singer has been regularly tardy to her latest string of shows, beginning more than an hour late. Rihanna took the stage on Saturday just before 10pm, but surprisingly there was no crowd restlessness. A few families sat on the grass for some quality time – perhaps they learnt their lesson from the Justin Bieber fiasco in May.

Last word

The one thing Rihanna cannot be faulted on is her work ethic. Most of her albums have been followed by extensive world tours that mostly went off without any controversy or meltdowns. Despite the trademark tardiness, Rihanna takes the stage seriously and her performances, this one included, seem more like play than work.