Rihanna, O2 Arena, London

3.00

Revamped Rihanna's highly rated

In the four years that Rihanna has been in the public consciousness, she has served up some of the most perfectly produced, slick R&B tracks of the last decade. Exploding in 2007 with the ubiquitous "Umbrella", the hits have just kept coming for the 22-year-old from Barbados. Her album Good Girl Gone Bad spawned no fewer than seven singles and sold over eight million copies.

But a lot has happened since, most notably being assaulted by former boyfriend Chris Brown and the subsequent split and trial. She went into the studio to record her next album, Rated R, and a new Rihanna emerged. Gone was the R&B princess, in her place was someone tougher, edgier, angrier.

And this can be seen in her latest live show. The night is stacked with military references and props. There are tanks, guns, armies.

After a powerful start with the brilliant "Russian Roulette", the show fails to engage. One of her best songs, "Disturbia", which sees the stage overtaken by scary bird men on stilts, could be magnificent. But she just sort of saunters around them and barely sings over the backing track. It's such a waste.

"Rockstar 101" is pretty cringey, as Rihanna clambers onto a hydraulic podium and pretends to play electric guitar while her backing band (who incidentally look like the Scorpions) go wild. And if you think straddling a pink tank would be a strange place to lead the crowd in an acoustic singalong of Oasis's "Wonderwall", well, you'd be right.

Despite a lacklustre start, she manages to turn the show around. "Rude Boy" finally has her gyrating around the stage like a global R&B superstar should. On "Rehab" and "Take a Bow" we get to hear her exceptional vocals and an encore that includes people's favourite, "Umbrella", is magnificent.

The main problem with the show is not her but the production. Apparently, it's called the Last Girl on Earth tour but there's no overriding narrative, just a mix-match of "controversial" images and scenes that don't make any sense. One minute there's a video of her onscreen being implanted with microchips on an operating table, the next it's a cartoon of A-bombs dropping onto dystopian scenes.

For a romantic, harmless song called "Te Amo", which includes lyrics like "Te amo/She says to me, I hear the pain in her voice/Then we danced underneath the candelabra" there are naked dancers (save for a bit of tape) hanging off giant metal machine guns. It's absurd. You can almost hear the talks between directors and choreographers: "What's dramatic?" "The apocalypse." "Get that in. What's shocking?" "Guns. And naked people." "Here's an idea..."

It's so desperate to be scandalous and controversial, it ends up almost comical and what is obviously a very expensive show is cheapened.

It's still a hugely enjoyable evening. Rihanna's a great performer, has fantastic songs and can work a crowd. Maybe in the future she could give some of the tacky stage props a miss and have enough faith in the music to realise it might just be enough.

Arts and Entertainment
Thomas carried Lady Edith over the flames in her bedroom in Downton Abbey series five

TV
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits