Nicki Minaj at Wells Fargo Theatre, 8/2/12

Categories: Concert Reviews

Eric Gruneisen
Nick Minaj at Wells Fargo Theatre last night. Slide show: Nicki Minaj in Denver


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A Nicki Minaj worldwide tour must be hard to plan for. Every new audience, every new visual, every different genre of song -- no formula to follow. Like her albums, especially Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded, the tracklist of which is so divided it hurts to listen to the full thing, Minaj's showing at last night's show at the Wells Fargo Theatre was, in a word, eccentric. In a few other words: All over the place.

It was hard not to be entertained by Minaj during her show last night. But who exactly was entertained is the real question. Was her audience composed of teenage girls, as you'd think? Parents? Twenty-somethings who enjoy Minaj's Frankenstein-esque singles, which play as if they'd been stitched together by a doctor? It wasn't clear, and at one point early on, Minaj didn't quite know either.

Eric Gruneisen
Nick Minaj at Wells Fargo Theatre last night. Slide show: Nicki Minaj in Denver

For digestibility's sake, Minaj carefully constructed a setlist according to genre. Hip-hop goes here, pop goes there, and throw the man-hating slow jam and the independent woman's fierce cry for help ("Fire Burns" and "Save Me," respectively) immediately before the blast of songs only diehard fans would know, and there you have it. In between, the house DJ spins tracks that didn't make the setlist -- including "Check It Out," which deserved oh so badly to be choreographed -- and poorly (no, terribly) sings along to them. Et voilà. You have a show that was as unpolished as her back catalogue.

After a barrage of her RedOne-produced singles, "Starships" and "Pound The Alarm" -- the best examples of hip-hop-meets-pop-turned-dance in the singer's catalogue -- Minaj finished her one-two punch with a right hook that didn't quite hit. Even on her second album, "Whip It" follows these tracks in order (it's even produced by the same guy!). But live? No one really caught on. So Minaj had to stop "Whip It" after the first chorus and ask Denver to prove they knew it. A few lines in from the first verse, and "Whip It" quickly segued into "Turn Me On."

Eric Gruneisen
Nick Minaj at Wells Fargo Theatre last night. Slide show: Nicki Minaj in Denver

Despite these shortcomings, Minaj brought her fans along for a ride that proved as thrilling as it was bumpy, unpredictable as it was carefully constructed. Her flows were so tight when she really got going that Minaj made her opener, 2 Chainz, and his acid tongue look lazy. Her vocals on tracks like "Right By My Side" were smooth, pitch-perfect, beautiful even. And when Minaj wasn't required to pull double duty as a singer and rapper in the same song, her voice really soared.

If only Minaj performed her better songs in their entirety, instead of switching songs after the first or second verse and the chorus -- like most hip-hop artists, including 2 Chainz last night, tend to favor during live shows. Her opener, "Roman's Revenge," which borrowed Catholic imagery similar to her performance of "Roman's Holiday" at the Grammys this year, was three minutes too short.

Eric Gruneisen
Nicki Minaj last night at Wells Fargo Theatre. Slide show: Nicki Minaj in Denver

Location Info


Bellco Theatre

700 14th St., Denver, CO

Category: General

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It was a great show. Nicki shined 2 chainz was good. The venue sucked, security sucked, just liked wells guy joe can suck a dick till he is full.

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