Drake was polite, methodical, and very Canadian during his “Aubrey & The Three Amigos” tour stop last night.
Everyone loves Drake. A Drake show, which filled an arena of 20,000 people last night, and will fill another 20,000 tonight, is home to any and all kinds of faces: Drake is for the children (I spotted many a 10-year old), Drake is for middle-aged women (40-year old women-friends came in pairs), Drake is for groupie bitches who wear their best club fit and just wanna get backstage, and Drake is for the homies who use the opportunity of his tour to rock their old Drake gear: VIEWS t-shirts, Summer Sixteen tour tees. Drake is for The People. While the rapper avoids being overtly political for the most part– I mean, he tends to avoid being overtly too far on one side of anything, really (can we blame that on the whole Canada thing?)– it seems that he’s chosen this tour to semi-address or reflect on the current landscape in the U.S. We heard him refer to Donald Trump as a “fucking idiot” during one of his New York stops, and while he didn’t repeat those exact words last night, he ended the concert by big upping Canada and basically saying something to the effect of: hey, U.S., take a cue from a us.
The venue was already sufficiently full when I walked in to the sounds of Roy Woods’ crooning, the OVO-signed opener for the night. He was finishing the song “Drama,” which as it turned out, would be his last song of the set, exiting the stage shortly thereafter, to audible excitement for the second act: Migos.
The trio were timely in their entrance, quickly following Roy Woods’, walking out in matching red, green and yellow jumpsuits — recalling an era bygone of coordinated girl group outfits, and it was cute as fuck (yes, I can say that). Takeoff sported the green fit, with those Kurt Cobain-trademark white sunglasses, while Quavo donned a red one and black shades, and Offset was in yellow. The three Migos came out to “Hannah Montana,” with DJ Durel handling track duties, enclosed in a square DJ booth with screens on all sides, while two other I-shaped screen structures were placed on either side of the DJ booth. This allowed for Migos to play clips from their music videos and other scenery to accompany their songs throughout the set. Migos’ hard-hitting bangers weren’t able to deliver the exact same punch as you hear in your headphones, simply because the stadium acoustics lose some of the intricacies of the production. Loud beats become more or less just ‘loud’ with the flares of each getting somewhat lost in translation. While it was a drawback of their performance, it didn’t do too much to hinder Migos, their voices still clear enough and melodies audible enough to carry any of their trap hits to the audience ears. Trap hits are mostly what they performed too, running through “Pipe It Up,” “Fight Night, “Get Right Witcha,” “Slippery,” and “Deadz” before letting the mood soften ever so slightly for “Kelly Price”– that being the closest we’d get to Migos serenading the crowd. However they picked back up the energy quickly as they dove into more of Culture cuts, taking fans through “T-Shirt” and “Bad and Boujee.” While Takeoff was a stand-out among the trio– his deep voice the most clear when it came to performing verses, and the enunciation of his words crystalized in the mic– his only off-moment proved to be during “Bad and Boujee,” where he was, seemingly, a bit aimless, walking around the length of the stage or else just standing there while his brethren performed. Nonetheless, they ensured to end their set with one of their most anticipated songs, “Motorsport,” where Takeoff was able to shine once more, performing his verse with dexterity.
Although the venue was more or less full by Migos’ set, they still couldn’t hold a candle to the amount of noise that would ensue when Drake finally hit the stage around 30-40 minutes later. The type of blood-curdling screams that Drizzy is able to extract from an audience is actually insane. Also, does he tell every city that they’re the best audience, ever??? I’ve always wanted to know. Whatever the case, Drake bestowed such an honour on his Montreal crowd last night, repeating it throughout the evening.
His grand entrance was accompanied by a mesh-like screen enclosure, which closed in around him as he walked to the middle of the stage, projecting visuals of a storm atop him. In a box of his own making, Drake performed two Scorpion cuts, “Talk Up” and “Mob Ties,” before the screen lifted and the crowd delivered more ear-stinging screams, as he finally became a clear figure, leading us into “Started from the Bottom.” He quickly brought the crowd into his performance, engaging with the audience in a way that Migos have yet to master completely — especially when the stage is the size of an Olympic swimming pool (? honestly I’m not sure how big that stage was, that’s just a hyperbolic but possibly not hyperbolic guess, I do know that Drake was literally sprinting across it to ensure he said “hi” to everyone on each side of the stage. Man’s in shape). “It’s us performing tonight,” he told the crowd. Of course. Drake has a tendency to pull off corniness where others could not; a fact he proved last night. It was endearing, ever so polite, to allow us to perform with him. At one point he praised us for doing such a great job, impressed.
He pitted the right side of the crowd against the left side of the crowd in rapping show-downs throughout the night (the first time, the right side got “Jumpman,” and the left side, otherwise known as my side, got “Both”), and he even managed to identify singular persons in the crowd — of course a lady — whom he sung to at one point and then told her, much to the crowd’s pleasure: “don’t look me in my eyes too long, I’ve been single too long.” Very Drake-y.
Drake’s set was divided into two. SIDE A was comprised mostly of high-energy records, such as “Know Yourself,” “Yes Indeed” (and shout out Lil Baby, because it was for this record, on which Drake is a featured artist, that we were privy to an awesome flying yellow Ferrari), and then a rapid-fire mash-up of hits over the years, from “Trophies” to “Pop Style” to “HYFR” to “The Motto” and more. All the while, Drake’s stage was an ever-changing landscape (clearly taking inspiration from the Cirque du Soleil stage, though) creating an illusion depending on your vantage point. At times, Drake was floating in the clouds, surrounding by flying light bulbs that looked like tiny fireflies, at other times, Drake was standing on cracked pieces of drifting concrete, or else he was walking on clear blue water, or perhaps a swimming pool with naked ladies doing the breaststroke, a Scorpion and other haunting creatures coming out from the earth in black and white, a giant scrolling Instagram page, an iPhone phone call, a basketball court made out of blue laser lights, a broken heart. The stage was vast, whimsical, and minimalistic, providing an unobstructed view for the audience that surrounded it on all sides, with large TV displays overhead, but no other accoutrement.
After taking a walk down memory lane with the quick succession of memorable hits, Migos returned to the stage wearing different but still matching fits, to perform “Walk It Talk It” and “Versace” alongside Drake. Drake would soon disappear from view, leaving us with Migos as they occupied us for a brief sort of intermission, giving us a rendition of “Stir Fry” while we awaited Drake’s return.
When he did walk back out onto the stage, it was time for SIDE B. SIDE B was, expectedly, a series of slower, singing songs, starting off with “That’s How You Feel.” Matching the ‘80s vibes of the Michael Jackson-featuring “Don’t Matter to Me,” the stage become a series of lit-up blocks that followed Drake’s steps– the best way to describe this, and what it reminded me of, is the Fern Gully movie, where they’re jumping across the water, and with each step they make, a part of the water lights up. At this point in the evening, I’m getting a whiff of someone’s fruity vape pen (or so I assume) but the odour seems so very appropriate/romantic for a Drake show. “We might have to sing a little more,” Drake tells the crowd, which isn’t a bad thing, because his voice is still warming up and he’s getting better with each song he sings– the notes rolling off his throat easier. He takes us through the melodic, wedding-friendly hits from Views, including “Controlla,” “Hotline Bling” and “One Dance.”
We’re nearing the end of the night clearly– I say clearly because Drake is working his way through his hits in an almost methodical method, which, if there were any detractors to his set, that might be it. Drake panders to the crowd, wondering in a rhetorical way if we want to hear more (obviously, we do). He proceeds to deliver a few recent guest verses (“Look Alive” and “Sicko Mode”) as well as “In My Feelings” (duh), and “Upset” before he walks off stage, and the room darkens. On the TV screen overhead, we’re treated to a collage of throwback video clips– it’s like one of those home videos you’d watch at wedding, nostalgia-filled, “through the years.” Very Drake-y. The bearded rapper comes back out once more to perform “God’s Plan.” He doesn’t actually end there; he’s once again found a bit of inspiration to speak to the audience on a more serious level, thanking the crowd and telling us:
“Now look at us, now Canada has some of the biggest artists in the world, and that’s because of you, so I thank you for real. And I wanna say this to you: every night, every night I do shows in America, and I try and share some insight on the world with all those people. And the insight that I share with them, is the insight that I learn from Toronto, from Montreal, from Vancouver, from Ottawa, from everywhere in Canada. And what I tell them every night is, no matter what you see, when you turn on your television in America, no matter how they say how that country is supposed to be run, or how everything is divided, if you look around in this building, you will see 20,000 people, from all races, from all places, and all we’re doing is getting along, and listening to music and enjoying ourselves, and having a good time. And I’ma let you know, that’s some Canada shit.”
Canada shit, indeed.