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Review: Drake, Vector Arena

Wednesday 25 February 2015

Review: Drake, Vector Arena

The early indication of how Drake’s concert at Vector Arena last night would go came before he had even stepped on stage. Excitable anticipation was rising and the whole crowd was singing along to Beyonce’s ‘Drunk in Love’ that was playing over the soundsystem while they patiently waited for their favourite singer/rapper to take the stage.

Since this was Drake’s first ever performance in New Zealand, the rapper played 2-hour set of hits (“just the hits, no misses”, as he says on ‘Draft Day’), which had the crowd singing along with him for the whole evening.

Bounding onto the stage to the horn blasts of ‘Trophies’, Drake looked fairly understated in his Timberlands, jeans and Space Jam t-shirt. But that is pure Drake: no pretense and unafraid of vulnerability. I was happy to learn that how he presents himself on social media, in interviews and on SNL is exactly how he is in person too. There’s that goofy, nice guy quality about him, which has contributed to his mainstream appeal and made him a pop culture figure since he first appeared on the scene in 2009 with his EP So Far Gone.

He played songs from that EP, (‘Best I Ever Had’ and ‘Successful), with the crowd singing along to every word of those lesser-known songs too. At one point during the show he moved to the podium in the middle of the stadium to play his more ballad-y songs, like ‘Marvin’s Room’ and ‘Hold On We’re Going Home’ - he changed the lyrics to “I’m not going home” to the screams of the audience.

He name-checked all of the places in Auckland he had visited (including Nandos and Little Easy) and singled out pretty girls in the front row without being a creep about it. Women threw their bras on stage and he casually hung them up over his microphone stand.

‘Worst Behaviour’, ‘0 to 100’, ‘Take Care’, ‘HYFR’ and ‘Crew Love’ were all highlights of the evening. He also performed a selection of the songs that he guested on, like the Grammy-nominated songs ‘Tuesday’ by iLoveMakonnen and ‘F**kin’ Problems’ by A$AP Rocky, as well as Nicki Minaj’s recent single ‘Truffle Butter’. The crowd knew the words to ‘Energy’ too, a song from his latest mixtape If You’re Reading This it’s Too Late, which was released just a week ago.

Supporting his friends and family is very much a part of Drake’s brand, and he gave longtime friend OB O'Brien some time on stage to perform his song ‘Thotful’, which neatly transitioned into his and Drake’s rework of Tinashe’s ‘2 On’.  

In a week of fans being let down by hip-hop artists (I’m looking at you Ciara), Drake showed everyone last night why he is one of the biggest artists in the world right now. He made sure people got their money’s worth, with the average price for a ticket going for the not-so-insignificant sum of $160.

The production of the concert was impressive and somehow managed to turn Vector Arena from a stadium into an intimate club, only with 10,000 people. There were lasers, plenty of pyrotechnics and for the finale, a mini fireworks display.

It’s a tribute to Drake’s appeal that he was able to perform a 2-hour set of hits, despite having only been releasing music for five years and for last night’s concert to sell as well as it did without being associated with any particular album release.

Drake acknowledged the crowd’s ecstatic response, taking a moment at the end of the show to crouch on the stage, telling the audience how the concert was one of the best he had ever played. He took to Instagram later in the evening to repeat this sentiment, saying “Auckland was one of the most insane crowds I have ever performed for. Start to finish the room was shaking and vibrating with love and energy.”  

Let’s hope it won’t be so long before we see him again.