As some suitably grand, operatic music starts up, a hooded figure stands with their back to us at the top of a raised platform. It’s not the last time we’ll be in the presence of hip-hop royalty tonight, but, in another coup for Radio 1, it’s the first time anyone will have seen Nicki Minaj play a show in the UK.
The opening is a bit of a red herring though, as she grins to the crowd and a troupe of dancers run on for a thumping ‘Roman’s Revenge’, it looks like anyone after the high-concept weirdness of her performance at the Grammys is going to be disappointed.
That’s not to say the songs are disappointing – in fact an opening section featuring ‘Did It On ’Em’ – however much it reminds us of festival toilets – ‘Beez In The Trap’, ‘Right By My Side’ and ‘Moment 4 Life’ has everyone eating out of the palm of her hand, and her stage presence is undeniable, but it’s a surprise that she’s playing it so straight.
With songs like those, it’s not that big a deal, but unfortunately, there is one problem – some of the backing vocals are on tape, and while that’s accepted and understood practice these days, it would probably have been better if they weren’t three times louder than Minaj’s live vocals for a large portion of the set.
There’s t-shirts thrown to the crowd and a blast of ‘Bedrock’ as a shout out to Young Money, before, with the sound largely solved, a final quartet of huge hits, with a bouncy ‘Starships’ sending everyone mental , and ‘Turn Me On’ and ‘Pound The Alarm’ keeping them that way.
It all leads up, of course, to the irresistible ‘Super Bass’, great enough on its own to render most of the quibbles beforehand null and void. If you have a ticket for Wireless or one of her headline shows, you’re in for a treat – just make sure she’s turned all the way up.