Rihanna, as usual, is generating headlines as much for her off-stage activities
as her music.
The latest rumors swirling around the Barbados-born pop star are whether her cancellations of recent shows in Baltimore, Boston, Dallas and Houston are because she's pregnant. Her camp blames a lingering throat infection for the no-shows.
Whether it's morning sickness or something else that has held her back, Rihanna, who is slated to appear on Friday, April 26, at Revel, is garnering strong reviews when the show does go on.
"Oh baby, I'm a rock star!" she says during her rendition of "Rockstar 101," and her performances are largely backing up that assertion.
The six-time Grammy winner, aided by a cast of 15 dancers, backup singers and musicians, has created a lavish production divided into six acts.
Each section spotlights a different aspect of Rihanna's music, with her setlist largely culled from her biggest hits and her seventh album, "Unapologetic" (Island Def Jam).
Despite some lengthy delays during some of her five costume changes, Rihanna proves she knows how to deliver a pop tune, Hollywood Reporter critic Emily Zemler writes of a performance earlier this month at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
"Rihanna, as her Diamonds World Tour reveals, may have enough personalities to warrant six acts, but in the end it all boils down to one artist selling libido-inducing hooks," Zemler writes. "She may have faltered on the extended interludes (slipping into skin-tight latex takes time, apparently) and could benefit from singing more and stroking her crotch less, but it was nearly impossible to remember anything but the buoyant pop spectacular enveloping all."
With too many hits for her 100-minute show, Rihanna has put together pleasing combinations in "Talk That Talk," "Pour It Up," "Cockiness (Love It)" and "Numb," as well as the dance hall-inspired "Man Down" and "What's My Name?," Chicago Tribune critic Bob Gendron says.
"Rihanna sang less than on previous tours, but moved more. Her body became a blur of curves and angles - elbows, hands, legs and knees bent into various positions," he writes of a tour stop in late March at the Windy City's United Center. "Suggestive and erotic, she knows how to tease."
For Zemler, Rihanna really shines during her most "dynamic" tracks, such as "Umbrella" and "Rockstar 101," but seems like little more than "a nightclub lounge act" during slower sections.
"If there is a weak point endemic to all pop shows, it's that singers spend too long showcasing ballads, particularly those that were never singles," Zemler writes. "A pop-loving audience, driven to purchase a ticket largely because of radio exposure, tends to have little patience for ballads or acoustic numbers. And for good reason."
At her best, Rihanna is like the host of a fast-paced party who wants her guests to have a non-stop good time.
"Assertive and sassy, (Rihanna) found herself in dance-club mode," Gendron writes. "She wasn't in the mood for romance or regrets. Then again, apologies aren't really her thing."
Opening for Rihanna is A$AP Rocky, a New York-based rapper who is touring behind his debut studio album, "Long. Live. A$AP" (RCA).
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