'Dirty diva' Rihanna rocks Auckland

20:17, Oct 06 2013
DIRTY DIVA: Rihanna performed the first of the three shows last night at Auckland's Vector Arena.

Auckland, Vector Arena
October 6 2013

She's late. Of course she's late. But it's okay because in the meantime the masses of barely clothed girls are taking their obligatory selfies.

Half an hour later, we're still waiting.

Multiple Mexican waves across the near-capacity arena. Phones with their torches on, waving like lighters everywhere.

Lights go down 46 minutes in. The dancers take their places.

Rihanna swaggers on to the stage.

Crop top, hot pants and black knee-high boots. Mesh overtop the ensemble and a black jacket with metallic fringing - Riri has landed.

And we silently pray that that whole Perth thing was a one-off. The music begins. There's a crotch-grab in the first 60 seconds. Oh no!

The Barbadian singer holds her own with the back-up dancers working the stage. She's got so much energy. She's twerking, she's shimmying, she's body rolling, but in the meantime the singing is kind of taking a back seat.

There are more than a few songs where she lets the pre-recorded vocal track play so she can just dance. And then when she does sing, the sound frags out and she's muffled. It's disappointing.

Birthday Cake. Talk that Talk. Big tracks full of energy, and that classic sassy, defiant Rihanna attitude.

But. There is just so much inappropriate touching. To the point of being off-putting.

"Y'all know I love my crazy fans, riiiiiiiiight?"

"Y'all ready to get crazy with me?"

I hear someone call her a "dirty diva" - in a good way.

The turning point comes a third of the way in.

The back-up dancers finally take a breather, get off the stage. Up there all alone, it's like Rihanna suddenly remembers she's a singer.

It's nice to hear her sing. She's got real talent and all the sexy dancing and crotch-grabbing almost makes you forget that.

From here it's all just up.

It's a worthy set list with a mix of the newer tracks like Stay and some of the old favourites like Umbrella. It's surprising just how many successful records she's put out.

The high point of the night is a tie between What Now, a track where she finally gets to show off her vocal chops - an almost flawless performance - and We Found Love, when the whole arena goes wild, screaming and stamping.

And she likes this.

"That's all that matters - this energy tonight. You are the perfect audience. The ideal," she says.

Five costume changes. Pyrotechnics. Guitar solos. All in 90 minutes. And then she shimmies off the stage, belting out the hit Diamonds before she leaves.

So forgive her for being late, and for not working her golden mike that first half hour, because in the end, she delivers.