Live Review: Nicki Minaj, The Hydro, Glasgow, Sun 12 Apr
Anaconda singer Minaj goes radge on her PinkPrint tour
So Minaj goes radge in Glasgow for the second time in less than six months – Her Pinkness was last at The Hydro back in November to host the MTV Europe awards, where she also picked up her own prize for best hip hop artist. There are plenty of purists who still dispute that Minaj even belongs in that category, and seem to wish she’d remained the hard-spitting underground rapper of her early mixtapes and guest verses, rather than becoming an oddball, bubblegum sex-bomb with a string of pop hits and jiggy videos. Well, nae luck guys.
Tonight it’s mostly ‘Barbs’ in the house, as Minaj calls her female fans. It takes a perverse kind of confidence to giddy-up a crowd with pre-show singalongs like Taylor Swift’s ‘Shake It Off’, only to rise from the stage in a funereal black dress and open with a sequence of downtempo laments about death, heartbreak and transience.
‘All Things Go’, ‘I Lied’ and ‘The Crying Game’, the first three tracks off her album The Pink Print, translate surprisingly well in this environment as bass-heavy hip-opera. The first of her four costume changes is a strip down to a body stocking for a brace of ruder stuff like ‘Feeling Myself’ and ‘Only’, drawing bawdy cheers from the faithful, and audible gasps from the parents of the littler girls in attendance.
Perhaps they only know Minaj’s singles, which have tended to be bright, shiny and comparatively clean, as produced by names like RedOne, Dr Luke and David Guetta. The back end of the set is given over to those high-energy Eurodance numbers – ‘Pound The Alarm’, ‘Va Va Voom’, ‘Starship’. It makes for an escalating party all right, especially after she wraps herself up in a kilt pulled off someone from the audience, and invites up a local boy and girl to help her perform ‘Whip It’. Young Fraser from Renfrew acquits himself particularly well, though Minaj struggles with his accent and pronounces his name to rhyme with ‘quasar’.
Musically, however, the show is as much of a mixed bag as her three studio albums so far, with a tendency toward anthems and ballads that make Minaj sound more like Katy Perry or The Black Eyed Peas than Missy Elliot or Busta Rhymes, whose now-faded gifts and skills are sometimes echoed in the flow of weirder, deeper cuts on Roman Reloaded and The Pink Print (very few of which get an outing tonight).
At her best, of course, she sounds like nobody else, and even borderline novelty records like ‘Super Bass’ and ‘Anaconda’ effectively split the difference between pop and hip hop, or refuse to recognise that there is one. Both of these are played too fast and too loud for mums and dads to consider their lyrical content and sexual politics, and Minaj shows just how big her balls are by going on to play the wise big sister. ‘You can do anything you put your mind to,’ she tells her Barbs directly. ‘Don’t you ever rely on a man.’ And beneath the bright smile there is a look of utmost, hard-earned sincerity, like bubblegum stretched over armour. Let’s call it pink steel.
Nicki Minaj played The Hydro, Glasgow on Sun 12 Apr.