Drake, Miguel, Future Toyota Center November 13, 2013
"I been waiting for this motherfucker the entire tour!" a more than jovial Drake announced to a near-capacity crowd at Toyota Center Wednesday night. "Everybody knows Drizzy Drake was born here in Houston."
He doesn't attempt to keep his distance from fans, especially not when he's liable to switch up the pace of his "Would You Like a Tour" that was making its third Texas stop of the week following Dallas on Sunday and San Antonio Tuesday. Instead, he does that childlike rap maneuver every boy makes when he feels like they've said the most incredible thing ever -- he bounces. All over the place. Drake by and large believes in every word that leaves his mouth, a live-wire version of jazz hands that by all accounts makes him perform like the biggest star in the world.
When it comes to current radio standards, no one in rap is at his perch. There's just Drake stroking a magnificent owl and rattling off hit after hit, such as when his tour DJ abruptly ran through what seemed like an endless array of Drake songs and features from 2009's "Successful" to 2011's "Take Care." Rap only has one real caretaker of the Billboard charts, whether it be Top 40 or those niche R&B/Rap ones, and his name is Aubrey Graham.
Inside Toyota Center, all of that was on display and then some. In the background stood a large video board, at times playing different scenes and splicing in moments of the live show all at once. It wasn't a full blown distraction but watching that thing while hearing the car door chime of "Connect" just seemed even better.
The premise of "Would You Like a Tour" centered mostly around the release of his junior album, September's Nothing Was The Same and for a good while it felt as if we would run through the entire album in succession. "Tuscan Leather" clanged out, boastful and broad while sandwiching in a coda from Whitney Houston's "I Have Nothing" in between performances of "Headlines" and "The Crew" from Take Care. That's the moment when you realize Drake is in full command, every awkward dance move to a slow jam segueing into another big number.
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No other rapper at the moment has a keener sense of when he's actually trolling people, and on this particular night, wringing around a stage hand who didn't necessarily have the show's tech aspects quite cold seemed fitting. "We doing this for Houston, my shit's gotta sound right," he told him, as cold and convincing as a Memphis pimp.
Though, I suppose imagining Drake as a pimp in any form would lead to questions where you lead off by saying, "Did the John respect you? I know he respected you..." Once that got situated, immediately the crowd got pulled into that jutting section of NWTS where R&B rules supreme, "Wu-Tang Forever" oozing into "Own It" and a small offering of "Connect" before Drake realized -- party first.
Boom. Boom. Boom. Rapid-fire succession of "Pop That," "No Lies" and "No New Friends", a more-than-engaging performance of his summer addition to Atlanta trap-rap group Migos' "Versace" record. This was Drake's kingdom, a pyrotechnic elevated set-piece playground that connected with fans and only made those who hate and dislike the man grit their teeth even more. He hit all his cues, and even if his singing may remind you of Aziz Ansari's making fun of R. Kelly, Drake still commanded eyes and attention.
Which made the night's close seem fitting. For all of his talk of Houston, Drake -- maybe moreso than any of his contemporaries who have funneled Houston's tried-and-true screwed-up sound into their own coffers gets it about this city. So after the smoke and bang and giant pomp of "Started From the Bottom," he turned the lights down and asked us to regale him by reciting 2009's "November 18th." His inaugural performance from Warehouse Live played behind him and in some sort of eerie home-movie vibe, it felt like we were right back inside that ballroom, witnessing a future star.
So, How Were the Openers? Besides Miguel, the R&B lothario who hugged each slice of his rising stage like a kid with his favorite gift on Christmas morning, split his way into spine-tingling the female crowd and some men who found it joyful to belt out "Sure Thing," there was the god-king Future, who by all accounts deserves to come back to Houston every single week to perform.
Nobody will beat Future in a contest of who should be the next Neo in a potential Matrix remake. Better yet, nobody is making better love songs in the vein that Future Vandross makes love songs than Future Vandross. Turn those lights off.
Personal Bias: Slight sound issues aside, this is sort of how I would expect a big Drake show to go.
The Crowd: Ready for the show, the hotel and the afterparty. No one coming to Toyota Center this year, aside from Timberlake and maybe Beyoncé, will bring a finer assortment of beautiful women to the venue. Nobody. Oh, but when Johnny Manziel is in the building and so is a tool wearing a goddamn Texas A&M Manziel BLAZER, you have to factor that in too.
Overheard In the Crowd: "I want Drake to murder my vagina," said a sign near the right side. To which Drake, in only Drake fashion, could reply, "I don't think that's appropriate."
Overheard In The Crowd 2: "I feel like Drake is so close to us," said the two girls who would not stop screaming behind me. May they be hoarse in the morning.
DRAKE SET LIST
Tuscan Leather Headlines The Crew Furthest Thing Wu-Tang Forever Own It Connect Pop That No Lies No New Friends I'm On One Versace Love Me (w/ Future) Same Damn Time (w/ Future) Pound Cake The Motion Come Thru (w/ Jhene Aiko) From Time (w. Jhene Aiko) Hold On, We're Going Home Worst Behavior The Language 305 To My City All Me Fuckin' Problems The Motto H.Y.F.R. "Started From The Bottom
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