For the first time since November 2013 that kid from Degrassi was back in Vancouver for two sold-out performances at Roger’s Arena. Aubrey Graham, better known as Drake, headlined the second night of The Squamish Valley Music Festival just over a year ago; however, a lot can happen in that space of time. With only having performed in VanCity proper a handful of times in his illustrious career, Vancouverites started to worry that the 6ix God had indeed turned his back on the 604.
Judging by Drake’s entrance on stage Saturday night proudly adorned in a blue Henrik Sedin Canucks jersey, Drake has not forgotten about his cousins in the west. Much to the crowd’s infectious delight Drake took to the stage with the tour’s namesake “Summer Sixteen”.
Drizzy elected to go with a very stripped down stage physically, reminiscent of the stage that now girlfriend Rihanna was on a couple months ago; that is until the light show began. Lacking in the visible frills or set decoration that we’ve come to expect from acts as notorious as Drake, the only real visible extravagancy was a movable platform. Not revealing his hand until several songs in, the lighting and digital aspects of Drake’s stage show began to impress and dazzle. With the out of this world digital graphics often depicting digital subject matter itself, the stage show alone was worth the price of admission. The quality of graphics were so incredible in conjunction with the light show that it is hard to articulate an adequate description. At the very least the graphics and light show evidence what can be achieved visually and on a large scale in 2016 . If the rapper should fall sickly or encounter an ill-fated end to any one of the number of beefs he is constantly drumming up, whomever own rights to that stage production should consider the Drake Travelling Laser Light-Show to recoup some of the losses. Another potential element borrowed from RiRi was the idea of floating above the crowd, Rihanna travelling in a modified firefighter’s ladder, Drake pulling it off in what really just looked like a modified hoist.
Another way for Drake to communicate to the fans and get physically closer to those not sandwiched against the front fence, Drake admirably used the expression ‘I see you___’ and proceeded to list a quick quality of the individual he had in his line of site. However, The most talked about and videoed story regarding the stage elements of the Drake show on Saturday (that strangely got yanked from my Facebook page) was that of the trippy pink glowing balls. Whether glowing balls or glowing balloons descending from the rafters during“Hotline Bling”, the lead single off of Drake’s fourth album Views provided a much better visual live than the visuals in the oft mocked music video for the same song. An answer would be greatly appreciated as to just what material and elements were used to create the effect of the pink pulsating balloons that seemed to multiply in numbers and float above much of the general admission fans on the floor.
Bearing in mind that the Saturday Drake performance was the first of two sell out shows in as many days which was measured in seconds as opposed to minutes taken to sell out, the crowd full of decisively quick drawing fans got exactly what they wanted night one of two. The Toronto based rapper played for over two hours and covered many of his (get this) 72 Billboard Hot 100’s, often in medley form just to manage to touch on them.
The upbeat Drake was clearly happy to be back in Canada stating that he had been “waiting 40 days to come back to Canada” while wrapping himself in the Canada flag and paused to soak in some love from his faithful following. Drake then dropped what I hope to be hyperbole with “I’m here to give you the best show, the best party, the best memories and the best night of your life”. As a fan of rap, hip-hop, and music in general Drake’s mission statement simply didn’t and couldn’t live up to his bold projection personally. Failing to live up to such a bold and insecure posturing probably due to my, you know…being a fan of rap and hip-hop.
Being that the last opportunity to see Drake was instead trumped by continuing my lounge in my side stage Squamish Fest green-room hammock, merely listening to the MC, I’ll just never understand the appeal of the fellow Canadian.
Clearly he is not for me to understand, needing not my support Drake has shattered basically every rap record and many music sales records known in recorded human history. And unlike Nickleback who broke a few records, you can actually find people that are willing to admit to enjoying The Toronto Raptors Lifetime Ambassador.
And enjoy Drizzy Drake VanCity did, boisterously cheering at every available opportunity. The elated crowd hung off of the artist’s every word, singing along from the top of the set to tail. In fact, the only time asses found their value in the chair they rented was with the Future interlude that had the guest rapper interrupt Drake’s set for one of his own; and a couple of collaborations. Decked out in a no name / no number blue Canucks jersey assumedly jacked from a pried open equipment locker backstage, Future must be getting sick of what goes down at most every show on the Summer Sixteen tour, the mass exodus. Future was politely received by the hordes of Vancouverites who collectively proceeded to the claw-away at each other in hopes of making way for a beer and excrement vanquishing. Having played a good contingent of cover tunes or songs he was a guest on, Future was better served as Drake’s tag-man than in his unique role of intermission talent on the Summer Sixteen tour.
There is little doubt that Drake fans left Rogers Arena more than content with the show the rapper put on. Drake interacted with the crowd on numerous occasions, did his best to play as many helpings off of his ridiculous number of successful tracks, and seemed to genuinely enjoy performing. Drake even did a little acting, though his chops have slipped since the Degrassi days. Acting fail case in point being the couple of times Drizzy mockingly busted his keyboard player’s balls for taming down the show. The second occurrence Drake followed the ballbusting with whiskey shooting, neither of which being the most convincing thespian work I have witnessed of late.
A couple points taken away from Saturday’s Drake show that have not widely been broached: Whether partially scripted, very determined to communicate a particular mindset that evening, or a case of the early onset Alzheimer’s, it seemed like Drake repeated himself…a lot. His interactions with the crowd were commendable in that often the rapper tried to make dialogue personal, but that was it, ‘I see you___’, and the use of Canada and the flag over and over again with only mild variations in wording appeared, at least after a while to be contrived.
Secondly, I suppose if you can afford to buy an exotic show lounge in Texas that puts dancers on pedestals, you can afford the human growth hormone (HGH). After taking his Sedin jersey off Drake looked more like Kevlar vest edition Curtis James Jackson III (50 Cent) than he did wheelchair edition Jimmy James Brooks (Drake’s Degrassi Character). Drizzy lookin’ straight-up yoked Saturday night leads me to believe that all the meet and greet with the fans time that he cut from the tour is being invested into lifting. Lifting weights and possibly some ‘supplementation’ at play; the likes of which would have him piss “Hotline Bling” on a USADA test.