A young, overwhelmingly female crowd packed Acer Arena on Friday night for the first of Bajan popstar Rihanna’s two Sydney shows. The sultry songstress, who’s churned out five albums in as many years, had no shortage of hits to keep the crowd entertained, but it was hard not to notice the distinct lack of personality present in both her performance and the staging of the show. While the set was strong, there were none of the ‘wow’ moments punters can usually expect in concerts from big-name popstars – none of Pink’s death-defying acrobatics, Beyonce’s superhuman dance moves, or Kylie’s warm, affectionate between-song banter.

Instead, Rihanna raced through her 20-plus-song set, rarely stopping to speak to the crowd and at times relying heavily on her backing singers and pre-recorded vocal tracks. Costumes and staging, while serviceable, also did little to inspire – although RiRi’s long orange wig did make her look an awful lot like our own Vanessa Amorosi.

An overpowering sound system didn’t help matters either – the muddy, distortion-heavy mix worked with rockier songs from 2009’s dark Rated R album like Fire Bomb and Rockstar 101, but threatened to overwhelm lighter hits like Rude Boy and S&M. An acoustic ballad section, including a stunning solo rendition of the Eminem collaboration Love The Way You Lie, provided some welcome relief before Rihanna finished proceedings with her most enduring hit, 2007’s Umbrella.

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