Drake Makes His Latest Houston Show a Memorable Marathon
Drake shows his appreciation for UH's big win Saturday night.
Summer Sixteen Tour
Feat. Drake, Future, dvsn, Roy Wood$
September 3, 2016
Drake rolls with the winners.
When he makes his own hits, those sterling, almost ridiculous punches of pop domination mixed with unassured cocksure swagger, he becomes the team to beat. When he comes back to his adopted home of Houston, it’s a winning formula. To date, no city has given Drake a yearly stage to declare his world dominance. Save his own OVO Fest in Toronto, Drake’s Houston concerts take up special meaning to him. At 29 years old, a month shy of crossing into the first days of his thirties, the Toronto king with a Houston tattoo stepped through a blitz of pyro and endless numbers of hits Saturday night.
After the clock struck 9:30 and the house lights went down, serene elevator music blared from the Toyota Center speakers. Then the feeling rushed to thunderous drums and the sprinkling keys of “Summer Sixteen." And then the boy king stood, once again rolling with a local winner displayed on his chest.
The University of Houston, a school that lies all of ten minutes away from the most famous and important Drake concert ever, had beaten No. 3 Oklahoma earlier Saturday. In a nod to his fandom of rolling with winners (see Kentucky basketball, the Golden State Warriors, any team LeBron James plays for), Drake hit the stage in a red Greg Ward No. 1 jersey. His new, cartoonish physique almost made it look like he was wearing shoulder pads underneath to fill the thing out.
“I tell you one thing, it feels good to be home, baby,” he told the sold-out crowd. “I know I was born in Toronto, but I feel my career got started here.”
That Warehouse Live concert in 2009 may feel like a lifetime ago, but it’s yesterday for Drake. He’ll never let fans forget that Houston was where Jas Prince introduced him to Lil Wayne, or where he had his first sold-out show ever. Where at said show his live vocals, in terms of singing, weren’t all the way there. And even though he was maybe a solid ten-minute walk away from Warehouse, he noticed a different energy within the crowd on this night.
Seven years and a possible hundred hits lay between that night in May 2009 and now. Drake decided to flex hard on the Toyota Center crowd, cutting up his joyful joust at producer Hit-Boy from “0-100” into a quick reminder of how long he’s dominated radio and beyond. “6 God,” from If Youre Reading This It's Too Late , segued into Nothing Was The Same’s “Worst Behavior." Loosies and features from Big Sean’s “All Me”, 2 Chainz’ “No Lie," the “Versace” freestyle and others made their way into the set. Even Thank Me Later cuts got looks, from “Over” to “Up All Night” and “Miss Me."
“HAW…” Drake trailed off, his first public mention of it. “I’m gonna be in town three days to party, turn up and I wanna see you.”
Houston Appreciation Weekend — whether it’s actually about charity or just letting Drake freewheel around the city to his heart’s content — has always gotten an awkward rap. Whatever the case may be, the third HAW so far has included a tour-themed pop-up shop, various parties at the Engine Room, the occasional after party at VLive and, somehow, a Celebrity Basketball Game in between the two Summer Sixteen Tour shows.
Time creaked a bit toward 10:30 before Drake launched into “Grammys," arguably the most sinister cut from Views. It’s also an easy throwaway from last September’s What a Time to Be Alive mixtape between him and Atlanta’s current hit king, Future. Almost on cue, Future rose from a platform beneath the Toyota Center stage, taking command of the tour with all of his club-friendly might.
The noticeable difference between watching Drake beat you over the head with his massive hit list and watching Future’s interplay with DJ Esco is how Future plays it straight up and Drake operates like a global rock star. Future hears the crowd, leans upon the perfect pitch to get the crowd cooked up into a frenzy and then immediately switches into another gear. Considering how he’s essentially morphed into this decade’s version of T-Pain, the painted Auto-Tune hook king, leading his set off with records such as Ace Hood’s “Bugatti,” Ty Dolla $ign’s “Blasé” and A$AP Ferg’s “New Level.” Then, with zero hesitation, he replayed the past five years of his career, an ascent just as rapid as Drake’s, though not as globe-conquering.
Future finally broke out as a legit national star over the past 18 months or so, thanks to three No. 1 albums on the Billboard charts and a serious assembly line of mixtapes. The moment Future got so close to the sun and then lost his wings à la Icarus, he began pumping out some of his most honest, pained and drugged-out material. “How many of y’all wanna hear some 56 Nights shit?" DJ Esco asked. Future nodded and fed the fans what they wanted. “Let’s give them some Dirty Sprite 2!”
Esco’s energy has always bordered on his being a hype man, the guy who urges you in the club to talk to the most beautiful woman there and leave with your pride should she reject you. Clad in black, a contrast to Future’s purified white ensemble, Esco led the crowd through a short maze before a familiar chant rang out like an impromptu Pledge of Freebandz Allegiance.
“I just fucked your bitch in some Gucci flip-flops…”
It made the couple in front of me grind closer, dancing as if nobody was watching them. The floor flickered with multiple lights cascading up and down, flashing to match the energy of the two men onstage. Once it came time for the actual National Anthem of “March Madness," the house lights came down and all that lit up the arena was cell phone lights.
Future won the crowd over in far shorter time than he had in March during his own headlining set at Revention Music Center on the other side of downtown. It felt far easier for him to play for this crowd, this large of a scene. The show in March asked him to do far more heavy lifting than he wanted to. With a crowd already knocked down, Future only needed to raise them up, like Lazarus. With his co-star’s medley of hits waning, Drake marched back out, kicked up a few records from What a Time — “Big Rings,” “Jumpman” — and regained control of the night.
The Toronto rapper continued his parade of praise for Houston. Even before Future came to decimate the stage, Drake had shorted his “Tinkerbell” stage from "Would You Like a Tour” into a rectangular platform able to take him from each side of the arena and hover over the middle. As his elaborate stage design with illuminated balloons came within his arms' reach, he sang “Hold On, We’re Going Home” and pointed out J.J. Watt jerseys and Astros gear all over the place.
Once the clock struck 11 p.m., Drake ignored it; his playful banter with his keyboardist led to multiple shifts in the set list. “We in Houston, you got this shit sounding like a B2K concert,” he told him. “They didn't come for no ballad shit.” When the keyboardist worked, he splayed out with elaborate plays of “Feel No Ways” and “U With Me?" When he didn’t, the crowd got massive club records out of Drake. And club-record Drake wanted to stick around after the city-mandated curfew.
“We’re gonna get James Harden’s wallet since he makin’ all the money up in here and pay the fines,” Drake told his DJ and manager. The female portion of the crowd squealed every time he gyrated his hips to show off his winning skills, and once he led into the “Toronto party” section, it was all he could do. During “Child’s Play,” where he played around wanting a Houston girl, he would let his body grind into the air — a far less offensive act than what happened in the “Child’s Play” video.
Rihanna could have been in Philly at Made In America, but Drake was going to act as if she were there in the physical. “Work” shifted into “Take Care” and eventually “Too Good," three collaborations that prove their work-love is real.
The year’s most undefeated trifecta of songs back to back are “Work,” “Controlla” and “One Dance”. Soon as the opening keyboard notes from “Controlla” hit and the balloon lights hummed to a modest glow, the crowd joined him in riddim. “One Dance” let the women act as if they were Kyra, secondary singers given new life thanks to Drizzy. Three shots in, Drake was working overtime to finish giving Houston a show.
“Are you trying to tell me I gotta leave these people because I'm 20 minutes over curfew? Y’all want me to leave?” The crowd wouldn’t dare do that to him. Or even make a moan or yell to say otherwise. During his final flurry, Drake stepped back; all of the tough-guy records he’d made between last summer and Views got emptied out.
Then, pushing closer to midnight as if we’d ventured into a venue-established time warp, Drake called an audible. “Legend,” the normal closer for the Summer Sixteen Tour, got replaced by “November 18th,” the So Far Gone cut that made him indelible to any young Houston rap fan.
"Sometimes this feels like a job, but tonight, this feels exactly how it should,” he told us as the warped piano version of Kriss Kross’s “Da Streets Ain’t Right” began playing. By then it was over. Forty-plus songs, two and a half hours.
The first marathon Drake concert, finished.
So Wait, Is Drake Great Live? Well, depends on who you ask. Does he do more than Jay Z’s now-infamous stand and occasionally move in certain spots? Yes. Does he leap off the page with a cappella flows like Busta Rhymes? No. Drake performs the way your boy would cheer you on during a basketball game — as the ultimate fan. Does he care that he really can’t sing? No. Which isn’t bad considering how he’s literally a fan of everybody when it's opportune to be.
How About the Openers? dvsn, a duo composed of singer Daniel Daley and producer Nineteen85, are quite possibly the greatest figment of what Toronto R&B sounds like. Which basically means they’re the branch furthest from the Timbaland/Virginia/Swing Mob R&B tree. Compared to fellow OVO Sound member Roy Wood$, the duo absolutely got everyone in order. “Too Deep,” with its outright lewd flip of Ginuwine’s “So Anxious,” was a crowd favorite. Though I’m still scarred by hearing three future Lena Dunhams sing “Hallucinations” by actually screaming it instead of searching for the damn notes. They’ve got their own one-night-only show at Warehouse Live on Monday — dvsn, not the Teenage Dunham Trio.
Was This the Greatest Drake Show Ever? Nope, it’s the second-greatest Drake show ever. The first HAW show, y’know, the one where Drake turned the famed Screw Shop into a set piece, is the greatest Drake show that ever happened. But the Summer Sixteen Tour definitely featured the most unique set design I've seen in regards to usage of the entire area. Drake has been learning from Kanye on that.
Personal Bias: Views is mediocre, but it will get stuck in your head so quick.
The Crowd: Showered in Summer Sixteen merchandise, plus the occasional Instagram dress and women who came straight-up in lace bras and skirts.
DRAKE SET LIST
Started From The Bottom
U With Me?
Feel No Ways
We Made It
I’m On One
Up All Night
Hold On, We’re Going Home
Big Rings (w/ Future)
Jumpman (w/ Future)
Back to Back
FUTURE SET LIST
Same Damn Time
Move That Dope
Thought It Was a Drought
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