Nicki Minaj‘s Pinkprint tour sashayed into the Staples Center Friday night (June 26), the second evening of headlining concerts kicking off the 2015 BET Experience weekend at L.A. Live.
Technical difficulties delayed her formal entrance by 30 minutes. But the feisty Minaj — introduced as the “greatest female rapper of all time” — slinked, vamped and undulated her way through an 18-song set.
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A behind-the-scenes video montage finally cued Minaj’s imminent arrival before a packed house of primarily female fans ranging in age from five to 40-plus. Standing initially atop a tall platform running the length of the stage, Minaj — wearing black boots and a long black coat with wing-like sleeves — opened with “All Things Go.” That was followed in short order by four more cuts from The Pinkprint album: “The Crying Game,” “Feeling Myself,” “Only” and — to audience cheers — “Truffle Butter.”
In addition to a couple of costume changes (a form-fitting black jumpsuit with pink swatches accentuating her curves; a deep V-necked black latex jumpsuit whose zipper later broke), Minaj was aided and abetted provocatively by four female and two male dancers. The septet ripped through such hits as “Moment 4 Life,” “Anaconda,” “Superbass” and “Ass.” The convergence of “Did It on Em”/”Beez in Da Trap”/”Flawless” was also a crowd-pleaser.
But the time spent on costume changes, coupled with the previous 30-minute wait, seemed to take a toll on the audience. The high energy that greeted Minaj noticeably waned as midnight closed in and a noticeable stream of patrons began filing out (perhaps to attend Miguel‘s 11 p.m. show next door). At one point, one fan was overhead saying it felt like Minaj was just “phoning in” her performance. In fact, after performing “Moment 4 Life,” Minaj told the audience, “Usually after this song I go down in an elevator, but BET couldn’t afford an elevator” — leaving folks wondering if her comment was shade or joke.
Rae Sremmurd, who’d performed a roaring 30-minute set earlier, joined Minaj for the threesome’s hit “Throw Sum Mo” before launching into their own hit, “No Flex Zone.” But Minaj did close on a high note with riveting takes on “The Night Is Still Young” and her anthem, “Starships.”
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Ne-Yo warmed up the audience for Minaj. Starting with “She Knows,” the consummate R&B showman riffed through a pleasing, sing-along set that included “So Sick,” “Religious,” “Time of Our Lives” and the Mario hit (“the first song I wrote”), “Let Me Love You.” He also brought out Jeezy to “Money Can’t Buy” and “Leave You Alone.”
Opening the entire evening was Tinashe who, along with Rae Sremmurd, is part of the current Pinkprint tour. Welcomed to the stage by hearty applause, the singer/songwriter performed her hit “2 On” and turned in a riveting take on the track “Wrong.” And if her vigorous dancing is any indication, viewers will be in for a treat when Tinashe, along with Ciara and Jason Derulo, pay tribute to Janet Jackson on the BET Awards (June 28).