Rihanna plays shortish sold-out show in Tel Aviv

Pop sensation starts an hour late, makes up for it with hit-packed performance before 52,000 fans

Lazar Berman is The Times of Israel's diplomatic reporter

Pop sensation Rihanna took the stage Tuesday night in Tel Aviv in front of over 50,000 fans, who had to wait an additional hour for the show to start.

The star thanked the crowd for coming, and apologized for her late arrival. She said it had been “too long” since she was last in Tel Aviv; her previous show here was in 2010.

Pictures on Twitter showed the star onstage at Park Hayarkon in black knee-length skirt and sheer shirt, with her midriff showing, and a crown on her head. She was accompanied by six dancers, four back-up singers, and a four-piece band.

She opened with “Mother Mary,” “Phresh Out the Runway” and “Birthday Cake,” and went on to play a shortish set of about an hour and 20 minutes. Later in the set came “Umbrella” — which had the crowd singing along word-for-word — “We Found Love,” “Don’t Stop the Music” and finally “Where Have You Been?”

Rihanna ended the performance with a two-song encore, singing “Stay” and the hit “Diamonds” before telling the crowd that she would remember the night for a long time.

Tens of thousands of mainly teenage Israelis flocked to see the pop sensation, with tickets starting at NIS 369 and ranging to NIS 1,450 (over $400) for stage-side seats.

Rihanna performs at Tel Aviv as part of her 'Last Girl on Earth' tour, May 2010 (photo credit: Flash90)
Rihanna performs at Tel Aviv as part of her ‘Last Girl on Earth’ tour, May 2010 (photo credit: Flash90)

The show was the 25-year-old singer’s second in the country and is part of her “Diamond Tour,” which has her performing in the US, Europe, Australia, South Africa and elsewhere.

Tel Aviv experienced major traffic jams ahead of the concert. Rokach Boulevard was especially crowded, and police were asking concertgoers to park at the Ramat Gan Stadium and the Ayalon Mall.

Major Tel Aviv arteries were shut down. Namir Road and the Rokach Interchange heading south were closed off, and traffic moving south on the Ayalon Freeway was rerouted to the KKL Interchange.

The pop star had been scheduled to arrive in Israel at 9 a.m. Tuesday morning, flying in from Crete, but she arrived six hours late. Immediately upon landing at Ben-Gurion Airport, Rihanna was taken by helicopter to the Dead Sea for a photo shoot.

Before long, photos of the bikini-clad star floating in the Dead Sea and washing off the salt reached the web.

On Tuesday evening, she posted a photograph of herself getting off an airplane in Israel with the caption “Hello #ISRAEL!!!!”

She was not expected to spend the night in Israel.

Her last concert was in Abu Dhabi, UAE, on Saturday. Fans there were much more pleased than her South African fans, who reportedly felt that her uninspired performance in Johannesburg was not worth the expensive ticket price.

Rihanna, known for her attention-grabbing provocations, did manage to stir some controversy in Abu Dhabi. Overseers of the emirate’s Grand Mosque said they asked the pop star to leave the compound after she posed for photographs considered to be at odds with the “sanctity” of the site.

Rihanna poses outside a mosque in Abu Dhabi (photo credit: Instagram)
Rihanna poses outside a mosque in Abu Dhabi. (photo credit: Instagram)

Rihanna hasn’t publicly responded to the actions by staff at the mosque.

The singer’s Instagram account shows her posing on white marble, dressed fully in black, with her hair covered according to the mosque’s guidelines.

The mosque statement, published Monday in local newspapers, said Rihanna was in an area normally off-limits to visitors. It says the fashion-style photo session violated rules on the “status and sanctity of the mosque.”

Three weeks ago, Rihanna sparked criticism for a sexually provocative music video clip, Pour It Up,” in which she sings about drinking and strip clubs, and pole-dances dressed in a sparkling bikini and high heels.

In May 2010, Rihanna performed at Tel Aviv’s Bloomfield Stadium. While she was already an international star at the time, her fame has since catapulted, making her a household name. In 2012, both Forbes and Time magazine named her as one of the most influential people in the world.

Among the Barbados-born Rihanna’s songs are such hits as “Only Girl (in the World),” “Where Have You Been?” “We Found Love,” and current chart-leader “Diamonds.” She has sold over 30 million albums and picked up numerous awards.

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