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Review: Salt-N-Pepa get wild at the Zoo

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Old-school hip-hop heavyweights Salt-N-Pepa played to an enthralled crowd at the Minnesota Zoo on Wednesday, rekindling their energy for an explosive performance. The sold-out amphitheater housed a beautiful open-air concert night, and the female rap trio proved why it's one of the all-time greats.

Shannon Blowtorch started off the show with a dancer in tow, playing a nice mixture of throwback hits and more modern fare, sometimes simultaneously, as in the case of her "I Wanna Dance With Somebody"/"We Found Love" mash-up. The audience was ready to let loose, dancing fervently even as people awkwardly tried to find their seats. Blowtorch's set was disappointingly short, ending just as the amphitheater began to reach capacity. But the energy was gradually building in anticipation for the main event in the interim, and by the time the droning synth intro counted down to Salt-N-Pepa's arrival, it had reached a fever pitch.

Spinderella set up behind the decks, looping Notorious B.I.G.'s reference from "Juicy" ("Salt-N-Pepa and Heavy D up in the limousine") while a pair of male dancers in all-red Adidas tracksuits began to pop and lock on stage. Salt-N-Pepa took stage shortly afterward to huge applause, displaying the vibrant energy they've been known for since their early days. The crowd was comprised of about 90 percent women, ranging in ages but of equal excitement levels. It's a rare show where you can ask where the '60s babies, the '90s babies, and everyone in between are at and get response across the board. Cheryl "Salt" James and Sandra "Pepa" Denton sounded proud of their long-standing history in music, referencing how many people have come up to them saying they did "Shoop" at their high school talent shows or went as Salt-N-Pepa for Halloween. Despite their initial break-up in 2002 and their dramatized clashing on their 2007 VH1 reality show, they had an impressive chemistry clearly built on decades of performance history.

Brassy, bubbly, and booming, Salt-N-Pepa killed as live performers, hitting every note and dance step with a remarkably comfortable stride. They interacted with their dancers, the audience, and each other with a buoyant energy that felt loose and fun while keeping the tightness necessary to nail the songs. The crowd ate up every minute, dancing and screaming with huge smiles that never left. A good portion of the set was devoted to sections that were not their songs, like testing of hip-hop knowledge through singalongs of throwbacks, and Spinderella's DJ set in the middle of the show. It felt like a time-killer considering the backlog of songs they could've chosen from — the absence of tracks like the Grammy-winning "None of Your Business" and their debut response track "The Show Stoppa" were unfortunate — but it did make for a fun show experience. As Spinderella spun everything from "Turn Down for What" to "Smells Like Teen Spirit," Salt-N-Pepa and their dance partners shook their asses and riled up the people. Seeing Salt play air guitar along to "Sweet Child of Mine" as a fan blew her hair back was especially delightful.

The show emphasized the joy of old-school hip-hop with solidly delivered bars and pitch-perfectly cartoonish mannerisms. The duo gave some relationship advice by using their dancers, clad in afro wigs and fake dookie chains and spouting scrub-isms, as examples of men to avoid, before launching into "Tramp" to drive the point home. They invited a bunch of excitable women onstage for the first verse of "Whatta Man," and a bunch of sheepish men for the second ("I'm a big girl / I can handle a few men," Pepa stated, surrounded by gyrating awkwardness), before finally finishing with the climactic "Shoop" and "Push It." Wearing their iconic letter jackets from the Push It video, they danced to the heavy synth line and sent the audience off on a high note. Thanking everyone profusely for their good vibes, Salt-N-Pepa left the stage beaming as the people hoped for an encore. It didn't happen, but everyone left satisfied with an impressive performance.

Personal Bias: I sort of wanted to hear more deep cuts but I got what I expected.

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The Crowd: Primarily women, leaned somewhat older.

Random Notebook Dump: Shout out to Danny Sigelman for the ride to the show.

Setlist:

Do You Want Me

Shake Your Thing

Da Butt

I'll Take Your Man

My Mic Sounds Nice

Tramp

Expression

Let's Talk About Sex

Spinderella DJ Section

Whatta Man

Shoop

Push It