Live Review: Nicki Minaj - Hordern Pavilion

19 May 2012 | 3:17 pm | James d'Apice

Insane hair, blatant lip-syncing and numerous, drawn-out costume changes... [but] there was something real here.

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Timomatic began by making a virtue of his predictability. We know he's a competent dancer. He did some competent dancing. We know he's a competent singer. He did some competent singing. We know Set It Off is a calculated crowd-pleaser. It pleased the crowd. Boxes were ticked. Screams were screamed.

And then there was Nicki Minaj. A sea of young women in pink wigs plunged into delirium as Minaj belted out Roman Holiday, the opener and best track from the stunningly successful Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded. But as the track morphed into a strange cover of O Come All Ye Faithful the impatience was tangible. Did It On Em went some way to satisfying appetites as Minaj whipped off her Sith-Lord-meets-the-Wicked-Witch-of-the-West black cloak for her first – and quickest – costume change of the night. I Am Your Leader and Come On A Cone also got huge responses. Moment 4 Life. Champion. These are all rap songs, of course. Minaj began the night as a rapper – excellent delivery, incredibly (impossibly) faithful to the sound she achieves in the booth.

Then a costume change to what can probably be best described as Barbie's wedding dress. Big, cumbersome, puffy. This was not the rapper from Jamaica. This was the singer with the sweet dreams. The first track in her new persona was Starships. So pedestrian on record, it bears comparison to a less enthusiastic, less charismatic Taio Cruz track. Live, though, it was a revelation. A large hall, full of excited young people yelled the lyrics and we were drawn into the excitement. The redemption of a bad song was, in some ways, more exciting than the performance of a good one. Pound The Alarm followed soon after and the rap show had become a party.

There was banter (“Is there anything you wanted me to perform that I didn't perform?”). There was an ill-conceived invitation to young fans to rap her verse from Bottoms Up. And there was costume change after costume change. But there was no cynicism. Each move had been calculated to be fun; to be visually or aurally exciting, or to offer us a chance to connect with our hostess. Somehow despite the insane hair, the blatant lip-syncing and the numerous, drawn-out costume changes there was something real here. An education, perhaps, in how much fun it can be to leave your doubts at the door.

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