I'll be honest; when Big Sis told me she had just spent a fortune on tickets for her and her friends to go to the Newcastle leg of Rihanna's December tour and I asked "why didn't you ask if I wanted a ticket?" I wasn't being sarcastic. Along with Avril Lavigne, Rihanna is a guilty pleasure of mine based on much more than her penchant for revealing outfits and her natural beauty.
Good Girl Gone Bad is a very good album but, aptly, this recording from the MEN Arena in December 2007 begins with the ubiquitious strains of Pon De Replay (where have the three years since that was released gone?). Admittedly I do spend the opening minutes figuring out whether it's all a big con and Rihanna's lip-synching, but Break It Off kicks in and I get distracted. You'll have to buy the DVD to find out why.
It doesn't take long for the show to pass the acid test of gigs - that is being significantly different enough from the standard recorded fare to warrant the expenditure. It is infectiously upbeat but in a more grown-up way than the album, or maybe I'm just tricked by guitars and drums... and smoke machines.
Not even the cringey American pronunciation of 'Manchester' and associated drivel takes away from the strength of Rehab - almost making me angry and not just slightly aggrieved with my sibling. Rihanna even pulls off not butchering a Bob Marley classic, navigating neatly through dangerous territory for any artist regardless of age, experience or gender.
Scratch offers an impressive interlude as the dancers and band take centre stage allowing for Rihanna to change costume, but of course, with modern technology you can skip this bit but you'd put yourself in danger of missing yet another live band give us their take on The Eurythmics' Sweet Dreams. Again, you can skip this bit. Or go and get a drink without having to fork out £5 for a pint of warm fizzy "beer" in a plastic cup.
If anyone was still wondering, Rihanna isn't miming during this show but the DVD's audio might be just slightly out of sync with the video. Or I need a new TV, but 5.1 surround sounds handles things adequately almost like you're there. But with the added benefit of the crowd's screams being phased in an out according to an evidently capable editing team.
The DVD also features a 20 minute exclusive documentary for those who aren't all Rihanna'd out by the end of the show. With the wonders of modern technology you can even just wait until another to watch the bonus features, there's not a concert in the world where you can do that. I couldn't end this review without mention of the Manchester show closing with Umbrella, a track that could well have been written for the inhabitants of Manchester.
Pyrotechnic 'rain' and a good proportion of the expansive audience wielding open umbrellas (aren't people taught about bad luck anymore?) couldn't be a more appropriate end to the show. That the DVD makes missing out on the real thing incredibly annoying speaks volumes for it. As with any live DVD, it isn't going to win over any new fans, but buying it won't disappoint the many that already exist.