Cardi B was here for a good time, not for a long time.
The curvy 26-year-old Bronx-born rap star whipped through her Minneapolis debut at a sold-out Target Center last night in under an hour. Way too short, you say? Well, look on the bright side. You might have offset (get it?) some of the $50 to $125 ticket cost by paying your babysitter for less time than you’d expected. And maybe you were finally well-rested enough on Sunday morning to make it to church for once.
In the opinion of a guy who got into the show for free, Cardi’s 50-minute set was taut and lively but rarely rushed. She bolstered a 10-song selection from her only album, 2018’s brilliant Invasion of Privacy, with her follow-up single, “Press,” and plenty of the guest features she’s scattered through rap and pop over the past two years. In an album review last year, I said “She makes the act of being Cardi sound like such a blast that maybe for an hour or so you could enjoy being your own miserable damn self for a change too,” and that’s even truer of her live experience.
Her hair blue-blond and flowing, Cardi was encased in a spangled, bright blue body suit, black racing stripes along the side, bare shoulders and a flattering boob window up top—and she was overcome with regret about her costume choice. Sweaty underarms were one thing, she said, but “my buttcrack is wet now, very wet, know what I'm saying?" (Gives her line “I came through drippin’” a whole new meaning, huh?) At least she was able to achieve some level of physical comfort by ditching her heels mid-set to go barefootin’ for the remainder of the show.
This was one of Cardi’s just six arena gigs this summer, in Midwestern locales such as Lincoln and Wichita that can’t always count on major rap shows dropping in. She’s focused instead on more lucrative festival slots in the larger markets, and we not only got a fest-appropriate set length, but the spare stage set was designed for easy transport between venues rather than to take advantage of the arena space. There was no elaborate network of catwalks, just some risers where her 10 blue-leotarded dancers could do their thing and a silver chrome vehicle that Cardi perched on briefly. Old-school pyro stood in for high-tech lighting.
But we did get plenty of the candid, catty, and playful Cardi we know from Vine, Insta, and TV. During her introduction to “She Bad” she outlined the respective strengths of her two kinds of bitches: “My bad bitches know how to sell pussy but my ugly bitches know how to fight.” “That song gets me so angry,” she purred after “Be Careful.” “It makes me want to stab stab stab.”
After admitting that she’s got no gift for following choreography, Cardi performed her verse from the City Girls’ “Twerk” and showed off the one move she’s got down pat. (I almost said “the one titular move” but that seemed anatomically misleading.) She invited us to join in on the Maroon 5 and Bruno Mars pop hits where she guested, dubbing the practice “Cardi-oke,” and she herself sang bits of Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U,” New Edition’s “Cool It Now,” and Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts” between songs, as though amusing herself.
Cardi’s personality is so winning that she could have blabbed and quipped for another 10 minutes and no one would’ve complained. But there were plus sides to the trimmed-down set. There were no video interludes or extended time-killing routines from her DJ while she changed costumes. And since she only performed her bits from the other artists’ songs she’s guested on, we didn’t have to endure the full canned tracks from the likes of G-Eazy.
Before Cardi even appeared, the crowd had already been suitably rowdied by a chatty, raw set from the great New Orleans rapper Kevin Gates, whose soulfully assertive drawl was promising hair-pullin’ and the consumption of both booty and pussy while I was still finding my seat. The ass-shaking and heel-stomping was in high gear throughout Cardi’s performance, and when she said, “I got asthma,” a fan screamed back, “Me too!” At one point a dollar bill fluttered into the press loft and I looked up to see someone in the 200 level above making it rain.
Still, it felt too soon for the boogaloo rhythm of “I Like It” to let us know we were nearing the finish line. Sure enough though, a snippet of Bruno Mars’ New Jack Swing rehash “Finesse” led into the only two songs that could cap off the night. The star crouched and pounded the stage floor during “Bartier Cardi” before strutting through her career-making hit “Bodak Yellow” as a finale.
If we were left wanting more, well, I believe there’s an old showbiz adage about that. And I suspect most of the commenters who’ll complain about Cardi’s set length weren’t at the show, wouldn’t have paid to see her perform a Springsteenian marathon either, and will never see this sentence because they didn’t read past the headline.
Get Up 10
Backin' It Up (Pardison Fontaine song)
No Limit (G‐Eazy song)
MotorSport (Migos song)
Girls Like You (Maroon 5 cover)
Please Me (Cardi B & Bruno Mars cover)
Twerk (City Girls cover)
Thotiana (Blueface cover)
Taki Taki (DJ Snake cover)
Wish Wish (DJ Khaled cover)
Clout (Offset cover)
I Like It
Finesse (Bruno Mars cover)