There was no question going into Thursday's Target Center concert that Doja Cat has become a major player in pop and hip-hop music. There were, however, a lot of questions about how she would play as an arena headliner.
At 28, the Los Angeles-reared rapper and singer born Amala Ratna Zandile Dlamini has racked up 11 U.S. singles in the Top 40 since the release of her 2018 debut album — several of which she brazenly left off the set list on her current tour. She also has garnered a huge presence on social media and celeb gossip sites, sometimes with contentious results.
No surprise, then, Doja Cat drew a sold-out crowd for her first major headlining show in the Twin Cities. About 15,000 people showed up, mostly Gen Z- and millennial-aged fans. Some came wearing red devil horns in keeping with her demonically themed new album, "Scarlet."
Attendance was no doubt boosted by the presence of Taylor Swift's "Karma" collaborator Ice Spice in the opening slot.
Even more of a newcomer at age 21, Spice (Bronx's Isis Naija Gaston) played to an almost full audience. The crowd erupted to her first bit of booty-shaking twerking in the opening song, "Deli," and she kept on twerking in almost every song.
Despite her inexperience — she was just a viral act a year ago — Ice Spice proved a fiery rapper on stage. Her delivery offered more drama and hard-spitting flow compared with her sometimes too-atonal recordings, especially in her NSFW finale "Munch (Feelin' U)."
The stage production was old-school-hip-hop minimal during Spice's set. It got a lot more elaborate once Doja took the stage wearing a faux fur coat alongside giant, moving video screens to the tune of "WYM Freestyle (What You Mean)."
Things got a lot creepier, too. The headliner's set was broken up into four "acts," each loosely thematic. In the first one, she performed in front of a large, crawling mechanical spider during "Demons," was surrounded by hell-fiery pyro in her breakout 2018 hit "Tia Tamera," then seemed to emerge from some kind of all-red séance or exorcism for "Schutcho."
It didn't make a lot of sense, but at least Doja and her darkly funky band (relegated to play offstage) made a lot of noise to start the show anyway.
"Schutcho" and the moody Act 1 finale "Agora Hills" were just the beginning of a long line of 15 songs off the new album. That's a lot. Act 2 got dragged down by slower new tracks such as "Attention," "Gun" and "Often," the latter one of the few on "Scarlet" fueled by her Janet Jackson-y singing voice more than her rapping.
After "Often," Doja did spark one big cheer by donning a convincing Up North accent to shoutout "Minn-uh-soootah!" She didn't say much more for the rest of the show, though — even admitting she "didn't have anything interesting to say." Hey, that's better than all the uninteresting performers who talk anyway.
The second half of her 90-minute set proved plenty interesting, especially Act 3. That's when she crammed in all of her biggest pre-"Scarlet" hits, including "Woman," "Say So," "Need to Know" and "Kiss Me More."
Weird to line them all up mid-show like that, but what a thrilling 20 minutes for the crowd. She put a tribal rhythmic spin on "Woman" with dazzling accompaniment by her impressive dance crew. Then she made "Say So" into more of a light bossa nova ditty, to great effect.
Act 4 showed off the best of "Scarlet," starting with the innovatively devilish "Paint the Town Red," in which she danced with a giant walking eyeball. Hard to explain.
The concert had clearly peaked in Act 3, but it didn't lose much momentum by the time she finished with her hold-my-beer answer to "W.A.P.," the ultra-grinding "Wet Vagina." By then, Doja had pounded out 24 songs total, with a coolly cocksure and animated approach, nary a misstep, and by covering a lot of fresh if sometimes odd territory. She was definitely ready to headline arenas, in other words.