When the curtain finally rose about 10:15 p.m., Rihanna was kneeling on the stage in a flowing black robe, her hands around the mic in prayer position as a spotlight shone down on her from above.
Moments later she shed the holy look and was working the stage with her usual bad-girl swagger, showing why she rivals Michael Jackson as the greatest of all-time when it comes to suggestive hand placement below the waist.
So yes, ticket holders around the world can breathe a bit easier because Riri got her “Diamonds” world tour back on track in Tampa after health issues that threatened to derail the 71-city jaunt from the start.
In March, she canceled the second and third shows due to laryngitis. Earlier this week, promoters said she was sick again when she canceled concerts in Houston and Dallas.
But Rihanna sounded healthy and even looked happy to be back on stage Friday – at least as happy as a 25-year-old megastar with a too-uber-cool-for-everything persona can ever really look.
That's not an insult, by the way. That's a big part of what makes the former Esquire “Sexiest Woman Alive” so provocative.
Rihanna was absolutely captivating in the stronger, second half of the concert as she maneuvered a stage setup with more than a dozen moving screens, giant staircases, rotating pillars and an impressive amount of fire.
And oh so many outfits.
From a bustier and matching pants (part traffic cone, part “Tron”), during “What's My Name,” to a metallic, dollar-bill-themed raincoat with matching dress for “Where Have You Been,” to a long red skirt that was somehow both the classiest and most revealing garment all night on “Love the Way You Lie,” the fashion was everything you'd expect from Rihanna.
Of course, I can't speak for all of Rihanna's fans as to how much they enjoyed the show.
I do know that at least one young man was so overcome when Rihanna walked into the audience during “We Found Love,” he leapt off his chair and ran toward her into the crowd screaming. When he came back to his seat a few minutes later, his eyes were welled up with joyful tears.
That guy, I'll totally speak for: He loved it.