Nicki Minaj, The 02 Arena, London
The 02 Arena, London, Saturday, March 28
“Who here got someone they wanna shit on tonight?” Nicki Minaj asks the O2 Arena before launching into faecal-themed brag track ‘Did It On ‘Em’. Though her performance has arena show production values – shedloads of dry ice, ripped backing dancers and a video montage in which she proclaims herself a “professional icon” – it’s the 32-year-old’s fiery attitude that really impresses.
Initially she seems detached as she opens with ‘All Things Go’ and ‘I Lied’, two subdued tunes from last year’s third album ‘The Pinkprint’, which found the 32-year-old New Yorker grappling with a painful break-up. When Jessie Ware joins her on stage for ‘The Crying Game’, Minaj bizarrely forgets to introduce the London singer to herhometown crowd. It’s a slightly uncomfortable moment but Ware remains unfazed and their duet is affecting nonetheless.
But soon she’s in full flow, spitting out fierce rhymes on ‘Moment 4 Life’ and ‘Beez In The Trap’, slut-dropping to ‘Anaconda’ and chatting about “scones and jam” in a ridiculous English accent. When she delivers pop gem ‘Super Bass’ in a red lace catsuit, the crowd’s roar is enormous. Minaj is a much better rapper than singer, but because she invests slowies ‘Marilyn Monroe’,’ and Save Me’ with real emotion, a mid-set ballads section is surprisingly gripping.
The same can’t be said for an unnecessary audience participation segment in which Minaj brings on a competition winner to “twerk to some reggae”, then asks the crowd, somewhat surreally, to “give a big cheer for Hertfordshire”. But this doesn’t halt the momentum for long. Ending with a succession of dance bangers including her David Guetta EDM hit ‘Turn Me On’, underrated ‘The Pinkprint’ cut ‘The Night Is Still Young’ and a gloriously raucous ‘Starships’, Nicki has 20,000 people raising their hands to the line “We’re higher than a motherfucker”, and this vast arena feels like a New York basement sweatbox.