NEW YORK — When Rihanna first arrived on the scene, she was a sun-kissed Caribbean singer who managed to score a minor hit with the reggae-tinged "Pon de Replay." And with each subsequent album, the Def Jam star has evolved, with hits like "Umbrella," "S.O.S." and sweeping ballads such as "Take a Bow" added to the mix.
On Thursday night at Manhattan's Hammerstein Ballroom, Rih Rih's repertoire was on display as the singer powered through a 30-minute set during a special performance for The Release, a MySpace Music concert series. She was continuing to celebrate the release of her fourth album, Rated R.
"New York City, make some noise!" Rihanna urged the crowd.
The leggy singer arrived onstage decked out in a shimmering sequined minidress as paparazzi pictures of her appeared on the television screens behind her. Rihanna's accessories, in contrast, were dark: black shades, black gloves and a heavy dose of black eye makeup.
The booming synths of "Wait Your Turn" then flooded the sound system.
"I pitch with a grenade," she sang as two backup singers and dancers flanked her. "Swing away if you're feeling brave."
The lights quickly dimmed after one verse, and Rihanna took a seat onstage as she launched into a sultry version of "Russian Roulette."
Along with "Take a Bow" and "Disturbia," Rihanna delivered a spirited rendition of "Don't Stop the Music," during which she swaggered back and forth across the stage, at one point fondling a male mannequin. The audience roared in approval.
After a quick wardrobe adjustment, Rihanna returned to the stage, this time with a black vest over her dress and coordinating boots. T.I.'s "Live Your Life" kicked in, and Rihanna appeared at the top of the stairs near the middle of the stage. By the time she hit the bottom step, "Run This Town" blasted through the speakers and Rihanna — sans Jay-Z and Kanye West and with a whiplike microphone in her hand — took command again.
"Feel it coming in the air," she sang. "And there's screams from everywhere/ I'm addicted to the thrill/ It's a dangerous love affair."
Rihanna closed things out with her Grammy-winning hit "Umbrella," for which fans fittingly opened countless umbrellas in celebration of the hits that rained down on them tonight, giving the Ballroom an appearance not unlike an aerial shot of a domed stadium.