Singer/rapper Nicki Minaj throws one helluva party. Last night at the State Theatre, she played a 70-minute set that featured everything you’d expect (gyrating dancers, colorful visuals, costume changes) from one of hip-hop’s biggest stars. Credit the fact that Minaj, as she confessed mid-way through last night’s concert, cut her musical teeth playing dance clubs. She knows how to work a crowd, and during a show divided into four “acts,” she made the most of a two-tiered stage and went through elaborate costume changes that even found her changing hairstyles.
For the opening tune “Roman’s Revenge,” she arrived on stage in a long black coat that she quickly tore off for “Did It On’Em” and “I Am Your Leader.” Aside from the occasional butt wiggle, Minaj didn’t have any strong dance moves and the choreography was particularly weak (it often looked like her dancers were making up their routines as the show progressed). But that didn’t detract from the festive vibe. Minaj was at her best when delivering in-your-face raps on hard-hitting hip-hop numbers like “Moment 4 Life.” When she had to actually sing on “Starships,” she didn’t sound as sharp and didn’t sing all the vocals live (some were pre-recorded). The ballads “Fire Burns” and “Save Me” also suffered from the fact that there wasn’t a live band on stage (Minaj performed over pre-recorded beats). But she rebounded nicely for a medley of her early mixtape tracks. During that segment, she invited a handful of patrons onto the stage to rap alongside her. “I’ve never been anywhere where people come up the stage and grab the microphone,” she said enthusiastically, complimenting fans for knowing the words to all of her songs. Before spraying the crowd with confetti on the closing track, “Super Bass,” she praised the audience again. “You guys fuckin’ rock,” she said, perfectly summing up her own performance.