Music review: Nicki Minaj, Hydro, Glasgow

“I BELIEVE that life is a prize,” hollered Nicki Minaj on Moment 4 Life, one of the closing tracks of a lengthy set, “I get what I desire / it’s my empire.” That was just one moment among many in which she projected an image of hyper-confident female assurance; as an artist, a businesswoman and very overtly a sexual being. As big an arena spectacle as any Taylor Swift or Rihanna extravaganza, the Trinidad and Tobago-born, New York-raised Minaj’s show breaks from the contemporary tradition of pop aimed at as wide an audience as possible to deliver a set which is pitched squarely at the adult market.

Nicki Minaj delivered a set directed at the adult market

Nicki Minaj, Hydro, Glasgow ****

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Her first entrance was that of a cartoon princess, riding a pink and blue model unicorn for Majesty, but very soon after a four-poster bed had emerged and she was spitting the lyrics of masturbation fantasy Feeling Myself as her dancers – women wearing frankly unmanageable thongs, men in leathers and gimp masks, all superhumanly toned – attended to her every need. This was all ridiculously entertaining; like Madonna on hyperdrive, with fierce, hip hop-enabled beats and some great pop hooks.

Highlights arrived rapidly; the mic-drop luridness of Did It On ‘Em; the sheer irresistibility of new track Anaconda; the joyous communal fun of her mid-set DJ karaoke set, featuring an unlikely break into the Proclaimers’ I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles); the brilliant retro-futurist film and costume set-piece of Minaj as a cyborg warrior, abducting a man from the audience to cower before her onstage; cover version diversions into Ariana Grande’s Side to Side and Jason Derulo’s Swalla; and the evocative Asian futurism of Chun Li. Few pop sets feel quite as much like a full sensory experience as this. - DAVID POLLOCK