Live Review: Rita Ora – The Phoenix World Tour (O2 Arena London, May 2019)
Last year Rita Ora finally released her sophomore effort ‘Phoenix’, an album she’d struggled to get out for years due to record label disputes and settlements. Her lack of musical output hasn’t dimmed her appeal though, she has presented America’s Next Top Model, judged on The Voice and X Factor and rarely left the pages of tabloids since her debut. Ora has plenty of star quality – evidenced in her likability and charisma, but after such a long break, can she pull off her biggest headline tour to date?
The short answer is yes. Nothing Ora displays in the arena tonight is particularly groundbreaking, though it doesn’t have to be when it’s done as well as this. Fireworks, flames and a rendition of ‘Summer Love’ that saw her flying through the air, P!nk stylee – there were a number of exciting and memorable moments throughout the set. She gave few nods to her debut record with only ‘R.I.P.’ getting an airing; brave move from someone with such limited back-catalogue, but the number of hits she’s had in her short career so far was plenty enough to carry the evening. ‘I Will Never Let You Down’ was a celebratory mid-set moment, ‘Let Me Love You’ received a rapturous response (that diverted attention from the strange visual backdrop) and the mash-up of ‘Girls’ and ‘New Look’ elevated both tracks from their studio cuts.
Welcoming special guest Charli XCX, the two stormed through ‘Doing It’ and delivered on Rita’s promise of ‘plenty of surprises’ for the London crowd. Surprise two came in the shape of Sean Paul whilst, later in the show, Liam Payne joined Ora for a duet of their Fifty Shades track ‘For You’. The latter proved a set highlight as the team of dancers took on a trance-like state of euphoria matching the songs loved-up lyrics, though i’m sure most of the audience’s eyes were glued to Rita and Liam’s chemistry at the front of the stage.
The lack of ‘Ora’ tracks was a little extreme, particularly considering the set made way for 4 songs in which Ora wasn’t lead artist (‘Doing It’, ‘Hot Right Now’, ‘Lonely Together’ & ‘Black Widow’) but all is forgiven by the time the encore draws to a close, taking in two of the best tracks from her hard-fought second record. ‘Lonely Together’ has the best production of the evening and is a fitting tribute to the late Avicii, whilst ‘Anywhere’ may not seem like your typical set closer but works beautifully in closing out the evening. Any doubts I had about Rita Ora are officially dashed, she is one of the finest popstars our country has and hopefully, with less record label drama and more musical ventures, this will be only the beginning of her rise from the ashes.