Drake Kicks Off Tour With a Pristinely Indulgent Hockey-Arena Spectacular
Co-starring a repentant Future, a colossal Miguel, and a smoke-addled Wiz Khalifa
Drake / Miguel / Future
CONSOL Energy Center
Friday, October 18, 2013
So Drake commissioned a giant square-shaped catwalk, covering most of a hockey arena floor, that can lift him up to eye level with the cheap seats, so he can personal compliment the fashion choices of every single person in attendance. This is seriously the climax of his show nowadays, or the event that transpires at the point where a hockey-arena-show climax would ordinarily transpire. “I feel like motherfuckin’ Bon Jovi up here!” he beams to the elated citizens of Pittsburgh, hailing the cheap seats on this, the opening night of his bizarrely named Would You Like a Tour? tour. (Even the opening acts are required to repeat this name exactly from the stage: “Would You Like a Tour?” It’s still awkward by the time Drake himself does it.) “I’m my own stunt double!”
The process takes seriously like 20 minutes. The I-see-you-in-the-black-shirt conceit is an old one, most notably mastered by Jay Z, but Drake’s dedication to the bit is admirable, if quixotic and charmingly over-emphatic, like his dedication to most things. “What’s up, section 207?” (Many arena sections are called out by name.) “My man wearing the cardigan, we gotta have a conversation: Is that your wife?” “That dress was the right choice for you baby, I swear.” “I love the right side [of the whole arena].” “My Asian girl! Let the lights dim some!” (Oof.) “I see you, I see you, I see you, I see you,” ad infinitum. Red shirt, red tights, OVO shirt, pink bikini top, Canadian flag, neon hoodie, etc. etc. At one point he personally apologizes to one specific usher for all the swearing.
Twenty minutes. No songs transpiring. This is after stalking the catwalk during the bracing “305 to My City,” the most triumphantly joyless victory-lap tune imaginable, triumphant joylessness sorta being Drake’s thing, too. He returns to the stage at about 11:15 for the somberly braggadocious b-side “All Me,” which is an OK song but not an “11:15 at a hockey-arena show” song, especially when he announces, “This is my favorite part,” and then raps an absent Big Sean’s verse, which is the first time in history someone saying, “This is my favorite part of the song” and a Big Sean verse have followed each other on a linear timeline.
I would like a tour, by the way. I loved a lot of this show — even the parts that ground it to a halt. Drake is an excellent hockey-arena rapper — crystal-clear diction, every word prisitinely enunciated, his presence commanding but not pompously so. His dancing is endearingly goofy, almost Diddy-like. His main stage is highlighted by a huge, Prometheus-evoking O, itself a precarious-looking catwalk housing a live band that doesn’t draw much attention to itself, with a backdrop IMAX screen of pleasantly random-feeling visuals (Rothko primary-color swathes, aerial cityscapes, ice floes, infared thunderstorms, deep blue seas, the occasional laser show) that don’t feel too pretentiously DONDA-fied yet. He certainly has enough monster hits/hooks to fill a show like this, even if too many — “I’m on One,” “Over,” “Forever” — are relegated to a Drake-less, momentum-deadening DJ interlude halfway through. (A lot of early stuff got dumped here, even the still-chilling “Successful,” ground zero for his whole “maybe fame and money will only make me sad” thing, a song he oughta revisit in person now that he’s, you know, rich and famous.)
Instead, his new set delivers every last track on the new Nothing Was the Same, to the exclusion of almost anything else — though he snuck in a few earlier jams (“Crew Love,” “HYFR,”) and loose guest verses (“Pop That,” “Fucking Problems,” “Versace”) — a lot of his past is buried here: no “Marvin’s Room” or (personal favorite) “Shut It Down,” and virtually nothing from Thank Me Later. But he sells the new shit. The cocky melancholy of “Own It” and “Pound Cake” and “Worst Behavior” and “The Language” feels 500 feet tall here; the absurdly silken “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” a rare non-rappity-rap moment, is a showstopper in the preferably metaphorical sense. But the show MVP might actually be “From Time,” a delicate, Sade-nodding deep-cut duet with wispy singer Jhené Aiko that hit paradoxically hard, the hook “I love me enough for the both of us” set to exploding and imploding B&W IMAX fireworks. Drake can turn a song this weird and insular and sulky into the high point of an arena-rap show, and god bless him.
What else? Future! Future’s back on the tour! He did a fun but perfunctory opening set to kick everything off — sometimes he deigned to hold the mic up to his mouth while his vocals were audible, sometimes he did not — and then crashed Drake’s set early for a beef-squashing mini-suite wherein Drake mostly hung back and goofily danced through “Honest” and “Same Damn Time.” (Drizzy also brought out rapturously received hometown hero Wiz Khalifa, belching industrial-sized plumes of smoke throughout “Black and Yellow,” in case you had not been recently reminded that Wiz Khalifa smokes a lot of pot.) Post-catwalk fashion show, we close with “Started From the Bottom,” as well we should; no encore, no need.
As for Miguel’s middle set — Miguel is not fucking around. He’ll be headlining himself soon at this rate, with a far more ostentatious aggro-soul band and a swaggeringly garish light show and a sizable riser to deal with the whole height issue (“If he was four inches taller, he’d be the most famous person in the world,” noted my companion). All that flash bogged down the boudoir elegance of “Adore,” but his more bombastic and malleable tunes, from “Do You…” to “All I Want Is You,” stretched out and blown up and bashed around and injected with cock-rock ardor, hit hard the old-fashioned way. Shades of James Brown, Prince, and Janelle Monáe without overrelying on the similarities; he did the time-honored spin-into-the-splits move thrice. Ditch the long, winding monologue about why he calls it “Art Dealer Chic,” and we’re golden. Singers who can sell the line, “Let me show you how to touch me” are at a premium, especially in Drake’s America. Better his America’s than someone else’s.
Approx Drake Set List
No New Friends
Love Me (w/ Future)
Honest (w/ Future)
Same Damn Time (w/ Future)
Come Thru (w/ Jhené Aiko)
From Time (w/ Jhené Aiko)
Hold On, We’re Going Home
Black and Yellow (w/ Wiz Khalifa)
305 to My City
[Catwalk fashion interlude]
Started From the Bottom