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Review: Lil Wayne @ Nassau Coliseum, 3.27.11

It was truly a rare moment: Lil Wayne was speechless.

At Nassau Coliseum last night for his first area concert since being released from Rikers in November, Weezy was asked about being back in New York “in front of thousands of people instead of being locked up.”

“That ---- is unexpressable,” he said. “There are no words.”

After a pause for the riotous cheers, he launched into “Miss Me,” kicking off the final act of his two-hour set. Yes, Weezy is free and his “I Am Still Music” tour shows that he hasn't lost a step while he was serving time for a weapons charge.

When he boasts, “I am the greatest rapper alive,” he has a pretty strong argument. While Jay-Z is steeped in cool and Eminem is wrapped up in introspection, Lil Wayne is focused on entertainment. Despite his multi-platinum successes – sure to continue when “Tha Carter IV” arrives May 16 – Weezy is still grinding.

He runs all over the three-level stage with the same intensity that he spits his lyrics. He works hard to introduce newcomers from his Young Money label, literally walking Lil Twist around the stage during “Popular,” practically co-signing every line. But he also looks like he's having a good time, his broad smile appearing in nearly every song (not just when he's getting an onstage lapdance from Nicki Minaj.)

Having a five-piece band on the stage, especially one so heavy on the metal-influenced guitar riffs, adds an urgency to the show that is often missing at hip-hop concerts. Wayne uses the guitars in unexpected ways, giving “Bill Gates” a more raucous turn than its recorded versions and offering a new solo in “Prom Queen.” It also gives his concert a wider range of styles than nearly all his contemporaries, except maybe Kanye West, from the pop-leaning “Got Money” to the island-tinged new single “6 Foot 7 Foot,” from the club-pleasing “I'm Single” to the stark intensity of “Drop the World.”

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And, of course, he can turn a phrase pretty well, too. The live version of “Bedrock” is far more effective when you get to see his face as he delivers the punchline, “Call me Mr. Flintsone, I can make your bed rock.”

His Young Money crew share his work ethic, as Lil Twist and Shanell did well with their moments in the spotlight. However, Nicki Minaj's set often gave the headliner a run for his money.

It's so rare for a performer to arrive as fully formed as Minaj. The Jamiaca, Queens, native is a natural for arenas, even though her debut “Pink Friday” only arrived last year. Though her tough side gets the most play, especially in Kanye West's “Monster,” she makes “Right Through Me” and “Fly” feel tender.

And when Lil Wayne commandeered the special chair where an audience member usually gets a Minaj lapdance during “Letting Go,” Minaj didn't miss a beat. “What are you doing?” she said, when Wayne appeared onstage as a surprise. “Now, I'm gonna be all nervous.”

But she wasn't. She never seems to be, at least.

Rick Ross was equally confident, as he bulldozed his way through a half-hour set of Maybach Music and offered a peek at his upcoming “Self-Made” album, arriving May 24.

The opening team of Travis Barker and Mixmaster Mike showed how entertaining turntablism and drums can be, situated in a stage prop of a giant boombox, no less, while another Weezy protegee Porcelain Black, showed what a gothic Lady Gaga might sound like.

Weezy's “I Am Still Music” Tour set the bar very high for future hip-hop tours, a rare four-hour-plus marathon that was well-run from start to finish. (The show is at Nassau Coliseum again tonight.)

SETLIST: I'm Goin' In / Bill Gates (w/Busta Rhymes) / A Milli / Right Above It / Sky's the Limit / Got Money / Go DJ / Wasted / Ice Cream Paint Job / Green and Yellow / Popular (w/Lil Twist) / Lil Twist – Love Affair / Shanell – Hair Down My Back / I'm Single // NICKI MINAJ SET: Roman's Revenge / Did It on 'Em / Up All Night / My Chick Bad (w/Ludacris) / Check It Out / Letting Go / Right Through Me / Fly / Monster / Super Bass / Moment for Life // [Lil Wayne returns] I'm Me / Phone Home / Hustle Hard / Welcome to My Hood / Steady Mobbin' / Every Girl / Roger That (w/Nicki Minaj) / Bedrock / Fire Flame (w/Birdman) / Money to Blow (w/Birdman) / Miss Me / Mrs. Officer / Lollipop / Prom Queen / Drop the World / Da Da Da / 6 Foot 7 Foot (w/Cory Gunz) / Freestyle 

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