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Concert review: Nelly makes sure fans are all 'party people'

Nelly performs Thursday night at the Scheels Arena during the Blizzard Music Tour. Dave Wallis / The Forum

Nelly performs Thursday night at the Scheels Arena during the Blizzard Music Tour. Dave Wallis / The Forum

Two things happened in the Scheels Arena on Thursday night that some of Fargo might find surprising:

1) In a building sold out to the capacity configuration of about 4,700 people eager to witness Nelly's hip-hop flow, I felt like the oldest person by about a decade - and I'm 34. Even in a college town, it was strange to see the mass of pure adolescence that congealed on the hockey arena's floor.

2) Forgetting they're in the stoic upper Midwest, the pack of youth spent the night moving in carefree dance mode. In front of the stage, the block of compressed humans bounced like the floor was made of trampolines. The fans in the seats stood and swayed like wacky, wavy inflatable lawn ornaments or were grinding on each other like they were trying to remind the world why rock 'n' roll scared parents 50 years ago.

It was a party, and credit 3Oh!3, an electro-rock band from Boulder, Colo., for getting it started. The band's soundtrack of dorm room dance songs compelled hands to air pump and rumps to shake like they were auditioning for a Nelly video. And when 3Oh!3 ripped into its hit song "Don't Trust Me," the fans sang along like they were getting paid for it.

Then Nelly came on stage. The rapper who put the St. Louis hip-hop scene on the map 11 years ago with his hit "Country Grammar" drew a chorus of deafening screams as he stood on stage in a black jacket and matching shades with his entourage of four other rappers and a live backing band that pulsed through his song "Party People." Talk about art imitating life.

The party vibe was so pure that the crowd didn't even seem to mind that Nelly and crew spent much of the show running through a medley of hits blending together the rapper's hits like "Shake Ya Tail Feather," "Batter Up" and the Nike shoe anthem "Air Force Ones."

Given the reputation of rappers to leave the stage after less than 30 minutes, it was easy to worry early that Nelly was giving us a collage of hits and then getting ready to bolt to backstage. And as the medley stretched into a micro take on the shimmyrific "Country Grammar," the concern grew.

But then Nelly stopped the music and told the crowd to "put them hands up" and apprehensions were abandoned with the entire floor reaching for the sky with enthusiasm while Nelly and crew sang "It Must Be the Money." It didn't even matter that the sound was kind of muddy and the lyrics were a bit indecipherable (at least, from stage left). Like any good party, the vibe was more important than the details.

Nelly's all about the mood. Rather than waste time with the dead spots in whole songs, Nelly kept the vibe hyped by floating out the best verses and chorus of his catalog, even spending time on Bruno Mars' and B.o.b.'s hit "Nothin' on You."

Dude knows how to kill the room. And as the concert was fading into the night, the young, mobile crowd looked like it could dance all night. They might still be moving.