Amid a glittery circus, Rihanna’s sweet dreams filled the stage

Sporting bright fuchsia locks, Rihanna balanced pop effervescence and a darker, hard-edged side while performing at the Comcast Center last night. Sporting bright fuchsia locks, Rihanna balanced pop effervescence and a darker, hard-edged side while performing at the Comcast Center last night. (Matthew J. Lee/ Globe Staff)
By Sarah Rodman
Globe Staff / August 9, 2010

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MANSFIELD — Near the start of her show last night at the Comcast Center a video introduction informed us that when Rihanna sleeps, her dreams become real and this concert was one of them.

The urban dance pop junior diva must have some good dreams because her 95 minute performance was a pretty sweet reality, even as it balanced effervescent radio hits with a look into the darker, harder-edged side of her personality seen on her latest album, “Rated R.’’

That edge came courtesy, in part, of a vibrant eight-piece live band — including Extreme axe master Nuno Bettencourt — that lent heat and heft to Rihanna’s breezy pop, banging dance tracks, and emotional ballads.

The rest came from the hard-working singer herself who has matured into a sleek, assured performer who, while fascinated with robotic imagery, never lets you forget the beating heart inside of the songs, whether that heart is rejoicing or filled with anguish

There was plenty of both in the well-paced show, which opened with a breathless combination of the intense “Russian Roulette,’’ steely “Hard,’’ and relentless “Shut Up and Drive.’’

Even amid the glittery circus that was her stage set, Rihanna, rocking a shock of fuchsia locks and a half-dozen form-fitting costumes, glided, strutted, and swanned through the eye of the storm with a natural grace and winking charm. Dancers spun around her on a jungle gym (“Don’t Stop the Music’’), aerialists dangled from big chrome guns (“Te Amo’’), monsters on stilts encroached menacingly (“Disturbia’’), and the singer even rocked a few guitar licks (“Rockstar 101’’)

A midset clutch of slower tunes was a good breather for both performer and crowd. Sitting atop a pink tank, one of several awkward nods to war imagery, Rihanna breezed through a bit of Eminem’s “Love the Way You Lie’’ and her own “Hate That I Love You,’’ before taking center stage for the more dramatic trio of romantic distress “Unfaithful,’’ “Rehab,’’ and “Stupid in Love.’’

The show began to ratchet back up, shifting into dance mode in the final third, stopping briefly for a sing-along of “Take a Bow’’ and then barreling into bits of T.I.’s “Live Your Life,’’ Jay-Z’s “Run This Town,’’ and the confetti-strewn finale of “Umbrella.’’

Where Rihanna went for a sassy, occasionally lascivious kind of sexy, opener Ke$ha went for full-on trashy. Her dollar store spectacle combined a bit of LA glam metal raunch with a lot of cheap disco blare and doused it all in a vat of body glitter befitting her bratty, shiny, nursery rhyme dance pop. Her nothing-but-a-good-time energy was infectious for much of the crowd, which happily sang/chanted along with hits like “Blah Blah Blah’’ and “Your Love is My Drug.’’

Sarah Rodman can be reached at

With Ke$ha
At: the Comcast Center , last night