Nicki Minaj at the Wells Fargo Theatre, 8/2/12 (photos and review)By Ricardo Baca | August 3rd, 2012 | No Comments »
Let’s say Nicki Minaj’s concert on Thursday at the Wells Fargo Theatre in Denver was a four-act play, separated by three Minaj-less intermissions – because every diva needs time for her costume changes. And let’s also say that we might have learned more about Minaj and her fans from those interludes than we did the rest of the show.
Interlude No. 1: DJ Headache throws on “Where My Girls At” as a nod to the female-heavy crowd, a hyped-up dance break after only a few songs. Interlude No. 2: Headache makes a simple but surprisingly poignant observation: “Make some noise if you like pop music … Make some noise if you like hip-hop … Make some noise if you like Nicki Minaj!” The crowd, of course, made some noise. Interlude No. 3: Headache throws down Minaj’s popular track “Marilyn Monroe,” inspiring a theater-wide singalong. It didn’t matter that Minaj was backstage changing clothes; the fans still danced, sang along and took video of every second from their iPhones.
These dressed-up fans were out to party, no doubt, and the charismatic and cartoonish Minaj was as colorful and wonderful as you’d expect. It was also made clear that Minaj knows exactly what she’s doing. She’s more of a pop star than a MC, more of a singer than a hip-hopper. And the crowd had come to worship in the glow of her star – if only they got more facetime with Minaj.
She kicked things off with “Roman’s Revenge,” “Did it On ‘Em” and “Beez in the Trap,” the last of which featured the night’s opening act 2 Chainz. She was surrounded by dancers, but Headache was the only musical presence on the stage. Minaj had fun with the crowd, especially the ladies, noting at one point, “If you’re standing next to a sexy man, make some noise … If you’re standing next to a man who thinks he’s sexy but he’s not, make some noise.” With that, she lead into the summer jam “Starships” – lighting the room on fire with enough fluorescent colors to rival Forever 21’s fashionable mannequins.
The bummer: Minaj rapped and sang her way through the show, but perhaps because it was a somewhat dance-heavy concert, she was singing over the louder tracks from her album. Sure, that’s pretty standard in this genre that crosses from hip-hop to Top 40, but there were moments where Minaj’s live vocals shined through the fog of prerecorded mania – and it sounded really good and left us wanting to hear more of her live prowess.
But that’s also Minaj: She’s not quite artful, not quite artless – tacky and fun and bouncy and semi-provocative. The visuals were obvious for a tour called Pink Friday, and the staging was only occasionally clever – as evidenced by a set-closing take on her hit “Super Bass.” (The song is such a big, recognizable it, it didn’t need intensive stage work.) But it was kind of ideal for the young audience, which bum-rushed the stage immediately after the lights went down. It helps, too, that Minaj has a certain star quality. She’s no one-hit-wonder. She’ll be around for a long while if she continues working with the right people.
Glenn Ross is a Denver-based photographer and regular contributor to Reverb. See more of his work here.