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Review: Nelly teaches country grammar at Moorhead's Bluestem

Rapper Nelly performs Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016, at Bluestem Center for the Arts Amphitheatre in Moorhead.Dave Wallis / The Forum1 / 2
Rapper Nelly performs Thursday, Oct. 6, 2016, at Bluestem Center for the Arts Amphitheatre in Moorhead.Dave Wallis / The Forum2 / 2

MOORHEAD—It might've been cold enough for propane heaters, hot cocoa and even a few bomber hats, but Nelly made it hot in here Thursday, Oct. 6.

The St. Louis rapper performed at Bluestem Center for the Arts, playing the second-to-last show for the outdoor venue's Bluestem Summer Concert Series. Country singer Chase Rice will close out the series Friday, Oct. 7.

Temperatures in the low 40s and an undeniable fall feeling in the air Thursday night made it hard to get in the summer spirit, but Nelly and company warmed up the cold crowd and got the roughly 2,300 bodies in attendance swaying and bobbing to a night of hip-hop.

It wasn't just Nelly and a DJ on the stage. City Spud, like Nelly a member of St. Louis rap group St. Lunatics, spent the whole set rapping or otherwise backing up the headliner, often carrying whole parts of songs or smoothing out the rhymes.

Nelly yelled during his performance. A lot. And he had a habit of a particularly gruff delivery for his vocals, a sharp contrast to his smoother sound on records. Is it possible to rap off-key? A loud occasional backing track and constant beat helped cover up for the limits of his live vocals.

But quality aside, the 41-year-old who broke out big with 2000 solo debut album "Country Grammar" still makes it work as a performer, and those in the crowd were having a good time.

It helped that Nelly had plenty of hits spanning 17 years to pack his hourlong set, even if some of his best or most popular songs were only performed for a minute or two before he moved on to something else.

His set had the obvious choices, including "E.I.," "Shake Ya Tailfeather," "Country Grammar," "Cruise," "Air Force One," "Dilemma," "Ride Wit Me" and, of course, "Hot in Herre."

The festive atmosphere at the chilly show was boosted by a first for Bluestem—a thrust stage and packed pit of standing fans. Bluestem officials removed the first few rows of seating to make room for the new addition that will also be in place for Rice's show on Friday, and it was a well-received bonus Thursday night.

Boston rapper Sammy Adams delivered a high-energy hourlong performance after a short set by local hip-hop artist Diane Miller, who often plays in the area with seven-piece hip-hop band D. Mills & The Thrills but had a solo show Thursday.

Adams bounced around the stage, drawing loud cheers with a shout-out to former Bison quarterback and Philadelphia Eagles star Carson Wentz and references to North Dakota State University.

If you go

What: Chase Rice, the final show of the 2016 Bluestem Summer Concert Series

When: 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7

Info: Tickets $22.50 to $42.50 at www.jadepresents.com, the Tickets300 box office or (866) 300-8300.

Ryan Johnson

Ryan Johnson has been a Forum reporter since 2012 and previously wrote for the Grand Forks Herald.

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