Instead of being called the “Pink Friday” tour, Nicki Minaj’s triumphant return to Atlanta Sunday night could have been dubbed “The Tour Stop Featuring Every Atlanta Rapper Except Ludacris…And Even A Couple of R&B Stars.”
The first chunk of her joyful 100-minute show at the Fox Theatre breezed along from the insanely catchy “Beez in the Trap” (with openers 2 Chainz) to Big Sean’s raw club thumper “Dance” to “Right By My Side,” a straight-up power ballad that proves Minaj knows her way around a melody as well as a rhyme.
But then the parade started. Quietly, at first, with a quick appearance by Young Jeezy, who rattled off “Supa Freak” to a sold-out crowd already amped by Minaj’s can’t-turn-away stage presence.
Then, halfway through the concert, Minaj started to talk about a vocalist who influenced her from her earliest days of singing in her bedroom and out strolled Monica to deliver “Why I Love You So Much” (she sounded great except on those extremely over modulated long-held notes).
Minaj had barely returned to the stage when Bobby V slid out from the wings, leading Minaj to state, “I’m gonna go change,” and scurry offstage for her fifth or sixth costume swap while Bobby crooned “Slow Down.”
When Minaj returned in a straight black wig, pink tights over black hot pants and a cute cap, she had barely launched into her mixtape medley, told the crowd how Atlanta is one of her second homes and gave a shout out to Gucci Mane for all of his help with her career when another guest was added to the list – Waka Flocka Flame.
Shaking his dreadlocks, the muscular rapper sent the crowd into another frenzy with “Round of Applause” and astutely noted to Minaj, “We’ve come a long way from roaches to Rolexes.”
Minaj, a playful mistress of ceremonies, assured the audience that, “No other place got this many surprises.” Well, sure, since the U.S. tour only started last week, that is probably true. But it’s also unlikely that except for, perhaps, her hometown of New York – where she hasn’t yet set a tour date – this Atlanta show will reign as most memorable.
The appearances by all of these Atlanta artists also demonstrate that Minaj is well-respected among her peers.
And don’t ever doubt her ambition. Just a year ago she was opening for Britney Spears. Now, she’s headlining a theater tour that is just enough of a spectacle but doesn’t overwhelm her primary function as a rapper.
Strutting around a stage setup that centered on a small tower with built-in video screens and flanked by staircases, Minaj was her usual colorful presence, trading a long blond wig for a short ‘n’ sassy one, the oversize black robe she donned for the opening “Roman’s Revenge” for a series of waist-cinching dresses and booty-amplifying tights.
She was a joyful presence as well, the glow of a new tour still apparent in her smile as she playfully romped through “Starships,” a song that some in the rap community point to as a puzzling “a-ha!” that Minaj isn’t really a rap star, but a pop star.
Who says she can’t be both? After all, what modern country singer hasn’t blurred the lines between country and pop by adding or subtracting a banjo or slide guitar?
The fact is that Minaj is a standout rapper – male or female – with an original spin on wordplay and a liquid flow to her delivery. At Sunday’s show, fans from 6 to 60, of all ethnicities, were equally, and quite visibly, entranced by her performance, whether she was dancing under the firestorm of lights during “Pound the Alarm” or doing what she excels at – rapping, starkly, her tremendous verse from Kanye West’s “Monster.”
The only hitch in the production was when Minaj disappeared mid-show for much longer than an average costume change, leaving her DJ to entertain the crowd. Whether turning things over to her DJ or her surprise guests, the show lagged when Minaj wasn’t on stage – a true testament to her star power.