Review — Nicki Minaj Turns Ball Arena into a Pink Wonderland

On Sunday, The Queen of Rap Nicki Minaj stopped by Denver on her “Pink Friday 2” Tour and lit up Ball Arena with a pink glow, inside and out. Her fifth studio album Pink Friday 2 was released on December 8, 2023 and her tour kicked off in Oakland on March 1, 2024. Consisting of 56 shows across three continents, this is the most extensive tour of Minaj’s career.

Minaj released her original Pink Friday album in 2010 after signing with Young Money Entertainment in 2009. The album was Minaj’s first to reach number 1 on the charts and went triple platinum. 14 years later, Minaj is still showcasing her lyrical hip-hop flow and elaborate alter egos as she guided over 20,000 of her Denver fans through a tour of “Gag City,” Minaj’s fictional AI-generated utopian kingdom unveiled in tandem with the release of Pink Friday 2

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Her fans — referred to as “Barbz” by Minaj — took the pink memo very seriously. When exiting a bathroom stall, you’d likely be struck by a row of Barbie-level beauties washing their hands and fixing their hair while dressed to the nines in pink fur coats, pink cowboy hats, and pink rhinestones and wigs. Minaj’s personal fashion makes you feel like there’s no such thing as overdressed.

Before the show started, DJ Boof kept the crowd warm with a variety of pop and hip-hop hits from the last five decades. However, his set went on a little longer than fans would have liked. Minaj went on over an hour later than expected, but if there’s one person we’re willing to wait for, it’s The Queen.

When Minaj finally hit the stage, she started with the title track from the first Pink Friday, “I’m the Best.” The lyrics, “It was back in ’07/ Did a couple of tapes/ Now it’s, ‘Which world tour should I go on today?'” felt extra personal Sunday night. It’s no secret that there has been some major drama and big feuds in Minaj’s life lately. It’s led some to question Nicki Minaj’s current mental state and make accusations of substance abuse. Whatever your stance, Minaj delivered a solid performance in her vocals and choreography, proving why she’s remained at the top of the game for so long. The only insane thing we witnessed was 41-year-old Minaj performing 38 songs in six different outfits while looking as stunning and strong as ever.

Her stage setup appeared somewhat simple at first but constantly evolved with the personas and eras Minaj traveled through in her two-hour set. The energy officially hit the room when “FTCU” was performed as the stage became a neon laser Candyland playground. Flames were shot up all throughout the night, but the way they hit during the “You, you, you, or you” of “Big Difference” had everyone in the room on the same beat and locked in on the present moment. 

Minaj’s sex-positive confidence is evident in everything she does but the energy shifted into something truly sultry as Minaj emerged through smoke in an elegant black bodysuit and thigh-high boots to serenade the crowd with “Pink Birthday.” While dancing sensually with the most blinged-out mic stand you’ve ever seen, she seamlessly transitioned into “Feeling Myself,” the ultimate sexy feminist anthem. The screens that had predominantly depicted elaborate AI-generated art now switched to resemble smoky pink glass, with silhouettes of sensual hands moving slowly with Minaj’s choreography. 

Minaj’s team supported her in perfect synchronicity throughout the evening. Everything from the DJ to the drummer, the backup vocals to the backup dancers flowed while each performer showcased their individual styles and strengths. Sexy dance duos between the team and Minaj were sprinkled throughout the evening, keeping the set consistently spicy. Instead of just executing generic choreography, all seven dancers had an individual aura while remaining in sync with each other and balanced support of Minaj, complimenting her every move but never overshadowing her.

Minaj curated her set to show her evolution and range over the years but, while every era has its high points, fans kept craving a little more of the earlier 2000’s Nicki. The energy peaked every time she played a hit from her Young Money era, a time that always remind us of witnessing a female rapper clawing her way to the top with her fast flowing versatility and lyricism. The 2010 banger “Monster” was executed flawlessly despite it being the 20th song in her set. The dreamy set changes continued as a neon Barbie-esque box for every Minaj alter ego formed an assembly line. 

Minaj incorporated slower ballads that showed off her vocal range in performances of “Save Me” and “Here I Am,” which she hadn’t performed since 2010. In these moments, Minaj made herself a little more comfortable for the first time this evening, perching herself on the top of the stairs and kicking her shoes off to share a more intimate demeanor with the arena. This vibe flowed perfectly into the next set as Minaj exited the stage so she could once again change personas. 

Award-winning R&B singer Monica took the stage before Minaj returned for her final eight songs. The crowd was all love for Monica, but especially for fans born in the 90’s or earlier. Monica has one of those timeless voices that you know you’ll never tire of. She is always evolving while remaining true to her roots. Her acapella moments in “Angel of Mine” left her jaws dropped and her spirits high. 

When Minaj re-emerged with blonde hair and a pink bikini top, she shot right into her remaining eight songs with no skips or pauses. While Minaj has received some criticism on Pink Friday 2 for her use of samples in nine of the 22 songs on the album, the Barbz were pleased to witness this creative choice brought to life on stage. The element of nostalgia was hovering in the background all night with her vast setlist and often sentimental imagery. But during her performances of “Super Freaky Girl” and “Pink Friday Girl,” which contain clips from Cindy Lauper and the Notorious B.I.G., a feeling of being transported through time permeated throughout the room. 

This final section of the featured major hits like “Super Bass” and “Moment 4 Life”  which brought out the biggest smiles and most dynamic dancing of the evening, even though the crowd was 35-songs deep at that point. Minaj fed on this energy and walked the runway while delivering a much-needed pep talk to her Barbz, telling them how much each individual person in that room’s life matters and that they must find happiness within themselves before they can look for it in others. This led into Minaj’s final songs of the night, “Starships” and “Everybody,” and she left the stage. 

Minaj came out swinging for night two of her Pink Friday 2 Tour, and her Barbz embraced every hit. An evening of eras and emotions under an ever-evolving neon stage left the crowd connected and bright-eyed. The trip to Gag City was a welcome escape. No one really wants to go back to reality after an evening with Nicki Minaj, but the night is still young, right?

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