“I don’t dance now, I make money moves,” is the key line from rapper Cardi B’s breakthrough 2017 hit, “Bodak Yellow,” which she saved for the very end of her energetic, forceful headlining set at Saratoga Performing Arts Center on Friday night.
The line references the fact that the South Bronx native no longer performs at strip clubs, as she did at the age of 19 to escape poverty. Now 26, the singer has the success to be making money moves — having achieved numerous Grammy nominations and Billboard top 100 hits.
Cardi B’s SPAC show demonstrated that she does still dance — just on her own terms.
An ad for her new Netflix hip-hop talent show, “Rhythm + Flow,” premiering on Oct. 9, flashed on a screen when the performer took the stage to chants of “Cardi” before opening with “Get Up 10” and “Backin’ it Up.”
Lots of salacious booty shaking, twerking and downward-dog rump quivering punctuated her set on songs like “Taki Taki” and Bruno Mars cover “Finesse.” Confetti bombs rained from the amphitheater ceiling on “I Like It” and pyrotechnics and smoke plumes shot from the stage on “Clout,” “Press,” “Drip” and “Wish Wish.”
At only 50 minutes or so, the set seemed excessively short, and the lack of encores after a final one-two close of “Bartier Cardi” and “Bodak Yellow” was disappointing. But the cheering crowd didn’t really seem to mind. Cardi B made it through the majority of her hits — including “vintage Cardi” tracks like “Money” — but they were condensed some.
This was a make-up date following the cancellation of Cardi B’s SPAC show in late May due to complications from plastic surgery she had after giving birth last year to her daughter. It’s possible the shortened set was designed to give the otherwise hardworking artist a little rest.
Cardi B’s reach was on display when she ran through her guest spots on hits for other artists, including the ubiquitous 2018 rap song “No Limit” by G-Eazy, “MotorSport” by Migos and “Thotiana” by Blueface.
Surprisingly, or perhaps refreshingly, given the frequency with which most female pop stars change their outfits during the course of a show, Cardi B had no costume changes throughout the night — sticking to a light blue leotard with a feathered fringe that exposed plenty of skin. She ditched her white platform shoes a few minutes in — moving barefoot around the stage instead.
Her stage set too was fairly minimal, featuring a gold riser and members of her 10-piece female dance crew gyrating in scanty, glittery blue dance costumes and gold lame boots. The show could have benefited from a band. No matter how much her DJ hyped her tracks and cranked up the bass — and it was ear-splintering loud at times — there was no making up for the fuller sound that comes from having musicians playing instruments on stage.
The highlight of her set, “I Like It,” which samples Pete Rodriguez Latin boogaloo hit “I Like It Like That,” was enough to make up for that, though, erupting in an explosion of confetti and writhing dancers as Cardi B spit out the triumphant lyrics.
This was the “Femme It Forward” tour by Live Nation, designed to feature some of the best women artists of urban music. After opener “Nicole Bus,” Teyana Taylor put on a jaw-dropping performance — jaw-dropping for a spectacle of ribald, female-forward dancing and erotic enactment that had to be seen to be believed.