Review: 15 Thoughts On Drake's Birthday Concert In Toronto
October 25, 2013 - 5:18 pm
Birthday boy Drake’s sold-out homecoming show Thursday night at Air Canada Center was energetic and, at times, explosive. True, it didn’t quite match the star-studded surprise party that is OVO Fest and a couple gifts went unopened, but one can’t deny the most popular hip-hop artist of the moment savored every last crumb of his 27th birthday pound cake. —Luke Fox
1. Miguel’s star presence is undeniable during his opening set, which lasted just under an hour. His charisma and pipes are well deserving of stadium status, and the echoes of Prince are inescapable. He flirted with a cover of Bob Marley’s “Stir It Up” for a few bars, but it would’ve been interesting if he’d have thrown himself into a full-fledged tribute. These resonances of the greats work in his favor. And “Adorn” still sounds as box fresh.
2. The drawback of Miguel’s set, however, is all of the lights and noise that distract from the man himself. Electric guitars are mixed too loud and are featured too frequently. This is a dude that can sing. Too often there’s a sense the stage is screaming at the “I’m here for Drake and only Drake” kids to stop checking their Facebook statuses and pay attention. Miguel’s best moments occur when he finds a groove and the backing volume stops competing with his words.
3. That, and the time he jumped up and landed in the splits. Ladies freaking swoon over this guy.
4. Before making way for the headliner, Miguel led the rammed and ready crowd in a chorus of “Happy Birthday.” Since the singer-songwriter celebrated his own birthday (his 27th) just the night before, he kindly asked if the crowd could sing “Happy birthday, Miguel and Drake.” Scorpios unite.
5. The birthday theme gets drilled home early and often. Drake’s first address to the throng: “My name is Aubrey Drake Graham. I was born on Oct. 24, 1986, and I was born and raised in the greatest city in the world: Toronto, Canada! So if my city is ready to get this shit started, make some noise.”
6. A significant portion of the 13,700 at the sold-out Air Canada Centre, Drake’s home court, would need ID to get into a high school dance.
7. Refreshing and rare for a rap show: The scent of perfume is thicker than the smell of weed—an olfactory clue as to who’s buying all those Drake records. They fancy now.
8. Drake introduces his 105-minute set with “Tuscan Leather” and climaxes with “Started from the Bottom,” accompanied by fireworks. In between he performs virtually every track from Nothing Was the Same. He’s obviously in love with his new work. Radio staple “Hold On, We’re Going Home” becomes a singalong, but “Worst Behaviour” (spell it with a U, Yankees!) is an arena monster that deserved more than one verse. Drake calls it Toronto’s anthem.
9. Although fans of his new material were satisfied—loosies “Versace,” “The Motion,” and “No New Friends” all got play—Drake’s back catalog was all but ignored. A DJ set during the star’s lone costume change gave us snippets of “Over,” “Forever” and “Successful,” but those songs are anthems in this city. They deserve at least a verse.
10. Worse, you could fill a mixtape with the gems unheard on Thursday night. Conspicuous in their absence: “Marvin’s Room,” “Stay Schemin’,” and “Fancy.” If it’s your first Drake show, you might’ve wanted to hear those.
11. A highlight of the party was when Drake dragged Future out to ramp things up with “Tony Montana” and “Same Damn Time.” If you think these bangers sound good in the club, the wattage goes through the roof when they’re performed live in a jam-packed hockey rink.
12. Holding court at the home of the Toronto Raptors, the NBA club’s official ambassador winked at big things for his moonlighting gig: “I don’t know if you heard, but the Raptors are my team now. There’s gonna be some changes in here, I promise you.” Drake’s pal LeBron James can opt out of Miami Heat deal in 2014.
13. Drake uses “Connect” as an opportunity to shout out very specific locations of his city. He even shouts out exits on Toronto’s main east-west thoroughfare, Highway 401. You were stoked if you turn off on Morningside or Hurontario.
14. The addition of Jhene Aiko is a pleasant surprise. She kills her part on “From Time.”
15. Drake rode a larger-than-life circular, illuminated catwalk that raised Cirque du Soliel-style high above the floor crowd for the show’s climax and indulged in a prolonged personal shoutout session to the “305 to My City” instrumental. It’s a tactic he saw Jay Z use while touring Blueprint III, but Drake drags it on to a length (15 or 20 minutes) that crosses endearing and starts to get ridiculous. Forget this “left side’s better than the right side” stuff. He goes from acknowledging Section307 to pointing at fans’ specific outfits: “You in the Wu-Tang shirt—I see you!... Look at this girl with the best body in here, keeping her calories low. Make some noise for Low Calories!... My teacher’s here. Kim Jansen in the house!”