Review: Drake pours on hits at busy Little Caesars Arena concert
The Canadian rapper hosted a non-stop 90-minute party at the downtown arena on Tuesday, his first show of his two-night stand
Detroit — Drake holds the record for the most Top 40 hits of any artist in Billboard chart history, and the Canadian rapper performed a good number of them during his breathless sold-out show at Little Caesars Arena on Tuesday.
It was the second night of his Aubrey and the Three Migos tour, and his first of two nights at the new downtown arena. He'll be back again on Wednesday night.
The hitmaker ran through more than 40 songs, mostly in snippets, in rapid fire succession during the 90-minute show.
The stellar production saw the 31-year-old performing on a rectangle-shaped fully video-equipped stage positioned in the center of the arena, mostly by his lonesome.
But the pacing hardly gave any song a chance to breathe, or the audience a chance to catch its breath.
While the energy was high, Drake's personality was all but swallowed, and the glorious living meme that is Drake was just another element in an over-busy show that didn't showcase what makes him today's most popular recording artist: his individuality and his heart.
Tuesday's concert got off to a late start, as fans filing into the arena were holed up inside the arena concourse and not allowed to their seats as unspecified production issues caused the show to begin an hour later than scheduled.
Atlanta rap trio Migos performed a 50-minute set with plenty of triple-time bounce, rattling off a string of hits and only slightly overstaying its welcome. The group later returned for a quick set during Drake's performance, linking with the headliner for "Walk It Talk It" and "Versace."
When Drake hit the stage in a Nike-branded chest protector at just after 10 p.m., he rolled into a trio of songs from his blockbuster June album "Scorpion," performing behind a translucent scrim that projected images of storm clouds, a metaphor for his emotional state.
The screens rose for "Started from the Bottom," as Drake bounced across a blood red stage, his hands raised high above his head.
He rarely stayed in once place for long, skipping across the stage as he rattled off banger after banger, reduced for maximum impact to just their choruses and often even less.
The innovative, high tech stage was the highlight of the show; it projected images of ocean waves during "Know Yourself," lit up a square at a time like the sidewalk in Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" video during "Jaded," became a swimming pool during "Hotline Bling" and showed the interface of an iPhone during "In My Feelings," the current No. 1 song in the country.
But it wasn't the only production trick during the show. At various points, around a dozen drone lights hovered above the stage like fireflies flying in unison, and at one point, a mocked-up yellow Ferrari flew above the audience's heads. (It sure looked real from afar, but upon closer inspection, it was similar to the inflatables that fly over the crowd during Detroit Pistons games.)
The video screens high above the stage weren't nearly as cooperative as the other production elements, and they flickered in and out throughout the night.
Throughout all this, Drake was reduced to a karaoke man, forced to keep up with his hits as they echoed through the arena. (Early in the night he shouted out his "band," which must have been the world's most precise band when it comes to playing tracks exactly as their instrumentals sound.)
He did have a few moments of spontaneity, at one point picking up a phone that was tossed on stage. "What'd you throw your iPhone on the stage? You don't wanna do that," he said, taking a selfie and throwing it back into the crowd. (Bad move, it only resulted in more people throwing their phones his way.)
Drake also thanked Detroit for its support over the years, mentioning the times he's picked up his dad from the Greyhound bus station and the money he's dropped during trips to Motor City Casino.
One segment saw the stage turned into an impromptu basketball court, and Detroit Pistons forward Stanley Johnson took the stage to try to sink a series of baskets, hitting a free throw but missing a 3-pointer and a half-court attempt. (The segment is probably more entertaining when shots are made, like when Migos rapper Quavo hit a half-courter during the tour opener.)
"Nice for What," "In My Feelings" and "God's Plan," the three No. 1 singles from "Scorpion," all came during the home stretch, with the latter closing the evening. Drake offered some parting words before people began filing out.
"I don't want to get too preachy, but I do want to say there's a lot of (expletive) going on in the world right now, and these concerts always open my eyes," Drake said. "I look around and I see people from all races, from all places, with all different kinds of faces, and we're all inside one building smoking and drinking and listening to music and getting along.
"Don't let any news channel tell you how the world is supposed to be," he said. "This building tonight is how the (expletive) world is supposed to be."
It was a moment of honesty and truth from the performer, and was better than any production trick in the book.