Rihanna, 02 Arena, London

She's more than just a sex machine
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The Independent Culture

It's not clear when Rihanna thought it would be a great idea to start dabbling in adult entertainment, but the references to soft porn and dominatrixes in the first quarter of this O2 debut – as titillating as it might be – is just appalling.

It's one thing to run with the whole "sex sells" adage in the name of "feminist art" à la Nineties Madonna, and yet a whole other matter when the gimmick seems purely intended to elevate her status in the pecking order of pop divadoms, where she sits just above Kate Perry, while quite a few pecks short of Lady Gaga, and laughably miles apart from the Queen Beyoncé.

She really doesn't need to. In the six years she's evolved from a cutesy Bajan with tame pop numbers to a raven-haired wannabe nympo, she accumulated a catalogue of varied, favourable hits that dominate the night, and when not distracted by constant shot of her wagging her crotch to camera, you realise her vocal game has stepped up too.

In fairness, her target market nowadays is primarily adults – though woe to the child who randomly appeared on the stage during her performance of "Shut Up and Drive" – and they're fully captivated by Rhi's coquettishness and fearsome ways. And the entire show is actually well produced. "Only Girl (In the World)" is a winning opener, and what follows is masterful choreography from an ever present crew of dancers, a fantastic and rapidly changing set that at one point features the front half of a pink army tank and a strong band made up of a heck of a lot of guitarists. As for the singer herself, she's a relentless seducer, changing into roughly five skimpy outfits, paying homage to Prince's "Darling Nikki", and even plucking a guy from the audience to give him a good grind to "Skin", where she chirps "You know I like it rough!" before the pair descend beneath the stage.

The tone changes for the better in the latter part of the show where she's more connected with the crowd and delves into sing-a-longs like "Unfaithful", "California King Bed", "Cheers (I'll Drink to That)" and of course, "Take a Bow" and "Please Don't Stop the Music", with "Umbrella" the predictable finale. It's definitely a remarkable first for a series of gigs that extend until December – but she's much better off leaving the peep show in Soho.