O2 Arena, London ★★★★✩
THE British female soloist with more UK Top 10 singles than any other? That would be, rather incredibly, Rita Ora, who’s midway through her first British arena tour. She’s achieved it with 13 songs, four of which reached No 1 — yet only her devoted ‘Ritabots’ would be able to name more than a couple.
Despite a strong voice that stays in key without Auto-Tune — handy for a busy 90-minute show that includes an aerial singing segment — the 28-year-old has failed to establish a true vocal signature. On her recordings she could be anybody.
On stage, however, she’s a whole other thing.
Her long-delayed current album, Phoenix, may have under-performed commercially, but Ora is undaunted: some people were born to oversee big, mad pop gigs, and she’s one of them.
For this tour, the production is divided into four phoenix-inspired sections, titled (don’t laugh) Genesis, Flight, Torment and Rebirth, and each is a show within a show. There are hallucinogenic graphics, pyrotechnics, interpretive dancers and, striding the stage in a series of jewelled costumes, Ora herself.
At the O2 in London, Ora gave it her mighty all. When she’s up on stage, endowing the smashes Your Song and Let You Love Me with a rapper’s swagger and a grande dame’s hauteur, you’d fancy her chances in a swag-off against even Beyoncé.
She pitted herself against guests Charli XCX on Doing It, Sean Paul (Get Busy) and Liam Payne (their Fifty Shades duet, For You), and came away the victor in each contest. Well, apart from the last one: the screams for Payne were shattering. But if this unexpectedly terrific performer lost that battle, she resoundingly won the overall war.