Rihanna began her show at the Prudential Center Sunday on her knees.
As she bowed before a statue of an ancient goddess, the star prayed for strength while delivering the plaintive song “Mother Mary,” centering on the line “what’s love without tragedy?”
It’s a question that turned up in various guises in the songs that followed Sunday, underscoring Rihanna’s image as a woman burdened by a love she can’t resist.
The obvious Chris Brown subtext has made Rihanna one of pop’s most compelling, and troubling, figures.
Small wonder the motif gave her “Diamonds” tour a key part of its hard-edged shine.
That’s hardly the only message, or role, Rihanna delivered during her dense and ambitious show.
“Diamonds” captures Rihanna amid a nonstop blur of creative productivity. Having batted out seven albums in as many years while completing five world tours, the star has become a 24/7 music fixture. Her show worked tirelessly to reflect the breadth of that output.
Divided into five acts, and incorporating as many costume changes, “Diamonds” presents Rihanna as one of pop’s most broad-minded artists.
Her songs ran from the hip-hop toughness of “Phresh Out The Runway” to the Caribbean flourish of “Umbrella” to the dance pop of “We Found Love.”
It even paused long enough for ballads like “What Now,” about a love that defies reason.
In a later segment, Rihanna whipped out her most ecstatic material — peak dance songs from “Where Have You Been” to “Don’t Stop The Music.” She equaled their emotion in ballads like “Love The Way You Lie and “Hate That I Love You.”
Both songs again exploit Rihanna’s attachment to bad boys.
Drawing on such a wide range of styles and attitudes made “Diamonds” a show that sparkled any way you looked at it.