T IN the Park’s slow metamorphosis into the futuristic, multi-purpose pop festival it’s become and away from the trad guitar-rock event of times past has come in fitful and sometimes abortive stages, but there’s no question a key moment was the seminal appearance of Beyoncé Knowles a couple of years back.
Those who were there might have mixed memories, for her set was around 15 minutes of seminal, era-defining pop music and choreography and a slew of middling ballads as a long, sickly-sweet dessert.
In which case, Rihanna – the key and only contender to Beyoncé’s crown as the pre-eminent female pop star in the world – has her rival beat in longevity at least. She made a dazzling entrance from behind a video screen as her immaculately clothed backing singer posed statue-like, distracting us all, and the futurist sass of Fresh Off The Runway set the tone for a set which was compulsive, interesting, vibrantly-staged viewing, married to live sounds which conveyed an immediacy and an finely honed impression of spontaneity.
Most crucially, as a performer Rihanna bursts with a sense of vibrant confidence, strutting the stage with a beaming smile and a forceful flick of the waist here or a snap of the wrist there. Everything was in place, including the visual aesthetic – she wore a clingy tiger-print dress, long and curling light brown hair and a pair of shades at the start – and a sound which suggests she’s been paying attention to MIA during the soulful urban throb of Birthday Cake, Say My Name and Umbrella.