Rihanna - Honda Center - April 9, 2013

Rihanna - Honda Center - April 9, 2013

By: Heidi Darby
Honda Center
April 9, 2013

Few recent pop stars deal with as much scrutiny and struggle in the public eye as Rihanna. But all of those woes felt so far away last night during her anticipated OC stop at the Honda Center on her anticipated Diamonds world tour. From the opening note to the last costume change, RiRi was ddicated to reminding us that despite adversity, she still has enough sauciness, swagger and strength to outshine just about anyone in pop music right now.

The show ignited with a dramatic curtain drop that revealed the Barbadian siren in an oversized, black gown. She instantly lured in the audience with the track "Love Without Tragedy-Mother Mary" off her latest album Unapologetic. After the first (of many) wardrobe changes, she picked up the pace with "Phresh Out The Runway," returning to the Grecian-inspired set in black boots, a billowy blouse, and form-fitting shorts. With a full band and dancers at her back, the production made an initially strong impression.

While the stage's rotating insets, multiple screens, and various levels played a major role in the wow factor of the evening, Rihanna's wardrobe drew an equal amount of attention -in true diva fashion. Launching into the next phase of the show in a multi-colored, geometrically assertive catsuit of sorts, the crowd erupted after her interpretation of Ginuwine's "Pony." The surprising addition of pyrotechnics elevated the show even further, particularly during "Rockstar 101."

The risk of coming off as cliché was high during this song, yet Rihanna embodied the word rockstar, vivaciously strutting around the stage. However, where she peaked in swagger, she lacked in continuity. Her transitions between acts felt a bit barren, with disjointed filler entertainment from her dancers and strained bridges from her backing band.

All the show needed to recover from these minimally distracting elements was Rihanna. Without fail, the Grammy winning artist cast a spell over the audience every time she emerged from the back, beside, or under the stage. Even when she slowed things down a bit with a medley of songs including "Love The Way You Lie," "Take A Bow" and "Hate That I Love You," she managed to keep much of the arena on its feet. Perhaps it was her statement leading up to the love songs that kept the connection alive, sharing "Rockstars fall in love too, and when they do, it's fucking complicated." Odds are half the room thought of Chris Brown after that comment, followed by a personal version of a doomed or dysfunctional relationship. Fortunately Rihanna's ability to evoke a survivor mentality from the crowd left her fan's fist pumping and singing along.

As the night drew to an end, Rihanna slipped into a new outfit, this time taking the stage in a silver dress, raver shades, and sequined kicks. "We Found Love" set the place off, engaging the LED screens and lasers to create one gigantic club feel. This upbeat run also had the songstress rattling off hits "S&M," Only Girl (In The World)" and "Where Have You Been."

At times the group choreography left something to be desired, but perhaps it's this very dynamic that makes Rihanna's dancing come across as being so deliciously effortless. In between the multiple deep squats and sultry hip swirls, her stage presence -dripping with sex appeal- stood out more than anything. It's no secret the girl can sing, but what sets her apart form her contemporaries is her ability to command an audience with the combination of her minimalist dance moves and emotion-ridden voice.

After saying goodnight, pop music's good-girl-gone-bad returned for an encore that included "Stay" and a captivating performance of "Diamonds." Despite her affinity for blazing up, (documented via Twitter and Instagram) the motivated entertainer cranked out seven records in eight years, and reeled in an impressive haul of awards. Throughout the ups and downs of her tumultuous relationship with the media, there's no stopping her star from rising. And last night at The Honda Center, Rihanna made it immediately clear that she was ready to feel like the only girl in the world -at least for a couple of hours.

The Crowd: A healthy mix of exposed mid-riffs, beer drinkers, and self proclaimed "old school Rihanna fans."

Random Notebook Dump: To the fifty-something couple that looked like they came straight from a GOP convention, hats off for being the first people to light up a doobie in the immediate region. 

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