Four years after breaking on to the scene, Nicki Minaj has climbed her way to the top of both the rap and pop food chains. As a musical diva with crossover appeal, she’s on a rarefied plane of the Gaga’s and Madonna’s. Monday’s sold out show at the Chicago Theatre was the first U.S. stop on her world tour.
Just before 9pm, the curtain parted and Minaj was revealed standing in a black robe atop a two-story platform flanked by staircases. She and black-robed backup dancers did a satanic-ritual themed dance routine while flames danced on LCD monitors behind them. The music was almost completely drowned out by ear-piercing shrieks from the crowd. Minaj then ditched the robe and unveiled outfit No. 2 of the night: rainbow tights under daisy dukes and a long, platinum blond wig. She launched into “Did It On ‘Em,” doing serious body rolls with her male dancers. Then came “Beez in the Trap” with opener 2 Chainz coming on stage to talk about doing things to her kidney. “Stupid Hoe” was a crowd favorite, with the fans chanting the chorus rowdily when the music cut out. Minaj rapped without a backing track, bounced around the stage and did the MC Hammer dance.
Then came a break to accommodate the change to outfit No. 3. The DJ kept the crowd rowdy and threw out some t-shirts. Minaj reappeared in a white bra, white booty shorts, a white sequin harness and a long see-through skirt. “I want to play a brand new song for you” Minaj joked before launching into mega-hit “Starships.” The song is an ungodly mix of pop, dubstep and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” that, against all odds, is great. At this point, the energy in the Chicago Theatre was bananas. The crowd was ready to run through a brick wall. When alone on stage, Minaj writhed against the video monitors, campy and theatrical. Outfit No. 4 consisted of a cotton-candy colored formal dress and matching pink bob. When performing a song about “someone who broke (her) heart,” Minaj sang in front of a fireplace in a pink-wall-papered living room. Outfit No. 5 was black shorts, a black wig, Mr. T chains and a pink hat.
Minaj started bringing fans onstage during the last third of the set. She gave props to the Twitter followers who egged her into including tracks from mixtape Beam Me Up, Scotty in her set list. “Ladies, if you in school or you working, make some noise,” she said before going into “Proud of You.” She acknowledged and thanked the fans that dressed in her likeness. “Shout out to the suburbs” she said after asking where people in the crowd were from. “Super Bass” served as the finale before cannons shot confetti; Minaj and her dancers bowed and left the stage.
Opening the show was Atlanta’s 2 Chainz, a rapper riding a wave of radio hits and memorable guest verses. He showed easy charisma, leading the crowd through tracks like “Spend It” and “Riot” and his verses from collaborations with Kanye West, Drake and MGK. His gold chains and long braids swung loosely as he danced around stage, calling himself “Tupac without a nose ring.”