Live review: Nicki Minaj, PNC Music Pavilion (8/4/2015)

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Nicki Minaj
PNC Music Pavilion
Aug. 4, 2015
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Nicki Minaj is one of those rarities who can walk in a room and stop everything. That presence magnified on stage? Frankly, it’s enough to kick an arena full of Minaj devotees into any action she so chose with a flick of her hair. When she rose onstage at the PNC Music Pavilion, all eyes were on her — and all she had to do was stand there, immobile and scanning her eyes across the room.

Now that’s a powerful woman.

Actually, that’s powerful for anyone regardless of race, sex or creed, and for any musician to be able to bring that kind of blinding presence to an almost two-hour show is impressive.

Discovered in 2007 through her MySpace page by Dirty Money Entertainment CEO Fendi, Minaj has come a long way and has basically built herself an empire; the queen-like stage presence and attitude more than fits (she’s a woman who has fought and earned that status, and it’s refreshing). She spent a while making appearances on mixtapes for artists like Lil Wayne (who would eventually sign her to his Young Money label) and T.I. until her debut album, Pink Friday, was released in 2010 and garnered her a series of Grammy nominations. Not bad for one of the few music in the rap game; not bad for anyone.

The Pinkprint Tour, making the rounds after her third album release of Pinkprint earlier this year, is a testament to those years of hard work and spitting rhymes for years of mixtapes. Minaj has earned herself major commercial success and the scale of the show she’s put together is a reflection of how she earned it and how powerful she has become.

She began the show as though in mourning, dripping black lace with a veil over her eyes, starting solo with “All Things Go,” “I Lied” and “The Crying Game,” her dramatic flair telling the story of heartbreak. And then she reemerged, the powerful recovery from that heartbreak, throwing down with her dancers and absolutely destroying hits like “Feeling Myself,” “Truffle Butter” and, of course, “Anaconda,” the song that sparked a thousand memes.

Before slowing things down a bit, Minaj took a break to address the audience and tout the message that has made her an icon: be strong, educated and independent (especially if you’re a woman). Scanning the crowd sternly, Minaj took a moment to address the audience and remind them not to let anyone tear them down: “The moral of the story is, Charlotte,” she said, turning to address the male component of the crowd, ”If you’re not treating your girl like a queen, that just makes you look weak. Ladies, don’t you go around feeling bad about yourself for them,” she said to cheers of approval. “Honeychild, they’re insecure. That’s why they try to make you feel bad, because they’re in-se-fucking-cure.”

After giving the audience a moment to digest her words (and underlining them with an energetic throw down to “Anaconda”), she disappeared, reappearing shortly in a floor-length electric pink (what else?) gown accompanied only by a piano and a backup singer. While the entire show was full of fun and spectacle, Minaj was most captivating during these renditions of “Save Me" and “Pills N Potions.” The simple performance of these songs really did a wonder in showcasing her as a singer, not just a rapper, and she’s damn good.

After another quick wardrobe change, this time to a gold spangled two piece to bring out hits like “Super Bass” and “Trini Dem Girls,” and, despite a slight soundboard issue, the rest of the show went off without a hitch. However, Minaj got the opportunity to showcase more of her persona with the audience while sound testing her mic during the “mixtape medley,” asking the DJ to spin random clips from her old tapes and dancing with the audience in the disbelief as they sang the old words back to her. “I can’t believe you guys know this!” she gushed, grinning, as songs from her early days were chanted back to her.

For most musicians a sound issue could mean the end of the live show, but for Minaj, it just made her more endearing in the way she handled it. Nothing can dim Minaj’s star power, not weather, not sound issues, not a man, and onstage the world gets to really see who she is as a person and how talented she is as a musician. By the end of her set, there was no question that she more than earned her place on that stage as the queen.

Setlist
All Things Go
The Crying Game
Feeling Myself
Only
Truffle Butter
Moment 4 Life
Lookin Ass
Did it on ‘em
Want Some More
Dance (A$$) (Big Sean cover)
Beez in the Trap
Flawless (Beyonce cover)
Anaconda
Pills N Potions
Save Me
Grand Piano
Bang Bang
Super Bass
Right Thru Me
Mixtape Medley
Roman’s Revenge
Four Door Aventador
Win Again
Throw Sum Mo (Rae Sremmurd cover)
Big Daddy
Buy a Heart
All Eyes on You (Meek Mill cover)
Starships

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