Lil Wayne made it clear that he's no longer inmate #02616544L of Rikers Island.
Launching his first post-prison tour at the Dunkin' Donuts Center in Providence, RI, Wednesday night, Weezy headlined a wildly entertaining show that ricocheted from being nearly perfect to frustratingly excessive and back again. He acted out skits with his backup dancers. He told jokes. And, yes, he rapped, very, very well. But one thing he didn't do was dwell on the eight months he just spent in Rikers Island for gun possession.
He referenced it briefly during his first set -- "I was in a place a few months ago [where] I couldn't even imagine this shit, but now that I'm here it's better than I could have ever imagined." -- but that was it. From that point on, it was full steam ahead with one crazy sensory overload after another:
Booty-shaking dancers in black ski masks; fifteen massive LCD screens alternating between seizure-inducing strobe lights and scenes from movies like Gladiator; incredibly hot flamethrowers blasting over the stage; women doing Striptease-caliber dance moves; a four-piece rock band so loud that it rivaled the sound of a 747 buzzing your house; guest appearances that were necessary (Birdman and Cory Gunz) and unnecessary (Weezy's protege's Shanell and Lil Twist). It became a bit much taken all together and ended up overshadowing what people presumably came to hear: Lil Wayne rapping.
Amped-up rock versions of "A Milli" and "Sky's the Limit" during his first set got the crowd pumping their hands in the air, but it was the pared down moments where he relied on little more than his voice -- like on "Swag Surfin" -- that you could see his rap skills really are mesmerizing.
A smoke-machine-laden rendition of Weezy's "I'm Single" flowed nicely into a long set by Nicki Minaj, who stole the show and essentially became the night's co-headliner. From her tall, white wig to her raspy grunts on "Roman's Revenge" to her erotic lap dance for a fan pulled from the audience, she might have used a lot of gimmicks but she packed so much drama into her vocals that it was hard to notice anybody else on stage. She even made the line "How do you do that shit?" sound regal.
Earlier, Blink-182's Travis Barker opened the show by playing mediocre drumbeats over Mixmaster Mike's turntables, which sounded like Jock Jams on speedballs and left many people glued to their smart phones.Rick Ross, however, with his bass-toned rhymes and a subtle bounce to his swagger, was charismatic enough to keep the audience singing along to "Blowin' Money Fast" while they fogged the spotlights with marijuana smoke.
When Wayne returned after Minaj's set, the long night turned exhausting. Weezy asked everybody to put their hands up, but their arms looked tired. Surprisingly, it was a sample of Harry Belafonte's "Day-O" that shot a last dose of energy through the crowd as the speakers launched into Weezy's latest "6 Foot 7 Foot." And with that, all was suddenly good again. Maybe Weezy was right when he wrote two days before his prison release that, "I will be the same Martian I was when I left, just better."