Rihanna at the Super Bowl review — first the baby news, then on with business

A review by Ed Potton for London’s Times.

Well, it’s one way to announce that you’re pregnant. Perched on a platform hundreds of feet above State Farm Stadium, in front of a global audience of more than 100 million, Rihanna meaningfully rubbed her belly. It was later confirmed that the Barbadian superstar is expecting her second child with the American rapper A$AP Rocky, nine months after their son was born.

She performed the 13-minute blast of hits with a nonchalant elan

She performed the 13-minute blast of hits with a nonchalant elan

The headline-dominating revelation out of the way, Rihanna, 34, got on with the business of her first live show in four years. Kicking off with the shy and retiring Bitch Better Have My Money, she performed a 13-minute blast of hits with a nonchalant elan. That was a relief because she had broken her extended silence in October by releasing the dullest song of her careerLift Me Up, from the soundtrack to Black Panther: Wakanda Forever.

This being Rihanna, it was still nominated for an Oscar, but such a dismal ballad made you wonder whether her heart was still in it. Here was resounding proof that it was, even if the commitment came with a signature cloak of insouciance and the odd furtive smile. She was having fun.

Most of Rihanna’s biggest hits were included in the set

Most of Rihanna’s biggest hits were included in the set

Rihanna stalked the various levitating stages in a red jumpsuit, with a red plastic bra and baby bump visible underneath. The message was clear: motherhood and sex symbol status are very much compatible. She had talked in the week about how hard it was to decide which of more than 20 US top ten hits to cram into the time allotted to her while the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles suspended hostilities.

It was a nice problem to have, and most of the biggies were included. Her platform came down to earth then soared back skywards as she hit the bombastic chorus of Only Girl (In the World), which she quickly followed with sections from We Found LoveRude Boy and Work.

Supported by a band and a backing track, the voice purred like a Lamborghini and, if her choreography was understandably restrained, it was still full of bandy-legged, crotch-grabbing intent while her legion of dancers, wearing white jumpsuits and hoods, did the heavy lifting. There were no special guests and, thankfully, no Lift Me Up, with camera close-ups allowing for some cheeky asides.

During All of the Lights, the Kanye West song, Rihanna opened a compact and touched up her makeup, a response to predictions that the show would be a de-facto advert for the cosmetic business that has puffed up her fortune to more than a billion pounds.

Now wrapped in a huge red puffer jacket and under a canopy of fireworks, the star finished with an imperious Umbrella and an emotional Diamonds, signing off with another rub of her tummy. It is going to be one hell of a tale to tell the nipper in a few years’ time.

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