If you’re in the 25 and up age group then a Nelly show is the perfect place to be if you want to feel 15 years younger again. It was a day of nostalgia at Ottawa Bluesfest for those who lived through the early 2000’s rap era and even those who just heard about it. The mixture of people who showed up at the Claridge stage left nothing to be desired; Fans there specifically for the Texas-born, St. Louis-raised rapper and those waiting for Duran Duran to show up later. It was interesting to say the least. There wasn’t much need for the DJ to warm the crowd up for too long as they were already still buzzing from Future’s set earlier that day. After a few Top 40 hits, Nelly came bursting onto the stage in a vintage RBC Bluesfest ’94 tshirt (by an Ottawa brand Kania Couture). Nice touch, country grammar.
Without wasting any time, the show started off with a heavy-hitter setlist including “Shake Ya Tailfeather”, “Air Force Ones”, and “E.I.” before going into his more off-beat country-inspired tracks like “Over and Over” and “Cruise”. Sounding a little like he caught the DMX fever, we got to see a little less singer Nelly and a lot more savage rapper Nelly– which is not a bad thing. The rapper was incredibly in-tune and interactive with his fans, as if he were there to party with them and not just “do a job”. Showing true to that theory, he had an odd intermission with the DJ spinning more Top 40 hits except, this time, Nelly was on stage like it was a nightclub. It kinda worked. Moving to the end of his set, he brought some females on stage with him after meticulously selecting each one from the crowd. Then a gratuitous dance competition broke out to “Hot in Herre” among those girls (and no doubt many in the crowd too). Ending the night with a meet and greet for his Ottawa fans, Nelly’s charismatic spirit went well beyond the stage as he was described to be a “humble guy” by many. Check out his brand new single “Die a Happy Man”, his own rendition of country singer Thomas Rhett’s original.