Drake at Target Center, 12/8/13
|Photo by Erik Hess|
Target Center, Minneapolis
Sunday, December 8, 2013
Remember how Steve Martin used to end his set by telling audiences "I'd like to thank each and every one of you" and then he'd rapidly repeat "thankyouthankyouthankyou" as though he really was thanking each and every one of us? Well, Drake's pretty much gone and made that shtick the centerpiece of his concert, and he's done it in dead earnest.
About an hour into his Sunday night show, the 27-year-old showbiz-brat turned rap-superstar performed "305 to My City," from his latest album, Nothing Was the Same, while strolling along a circular catwalk, suspended above the center of the Target Center floor, illuminated by lasers. In other words, just your everyday big-ticket arena-pop eye-dazzler.
Then, however, Drake began pointing at individual members in the crowd and, for the next fifteen minutes, in a rhythm between that of a freestyler and an auctioneer, he identified dozens of them by their outfits or their actions. "I see you baby girl in the blue top, I see you." "I see you there holding up that jacket in the back." "You right there with the Afro puff I see you right there." Fifteen. Damn. Minutes. As a performance, it was startlingly confident, statically hypnotic, and downright tedious, like Warhol's Empire or a John Bonham drum solo.
|Photos by Erik Hess|
It was also kind of sweet -- not necessarily the adjective most often used to discuss Drake, whose lyrics often recount the prickly negotiations of immature relationships and, in the grand tradition of Sensitive Pop Males, use emotional honesty as an excuse to be more of a dick than even such tense situations warrant. But this need to reassure fans how unique and special they are was like something out of a teenpop show, though on a ridiculously outsized scale. (Those slackers in One Direction just read a few fan tweets.)
The night's other big moment was just as corny and no less sweet. A fan, who introduced herself as Miranda from Minneapolis, was brought onstage for Drake to serenade and he sang his latest hit, "Hold on We're Going Home," because of course he did, begging to receive her "hot love and emotion/ Endlessly" while gazing into her eyes and holding her hands. He also teased her about her socks and carefully checked her age (22), even though the chaste encounter never went beyond a farewell hug. It was such a winningly heartfelt performance that afterwards Drake felt obliged to wonder about who in the crowd would be "gettin' it in" that night, because, you know, a softie's got to hedge his bets like that.
|Photo by Erik Hess|
The show's visuals were as spectacular as ticket prices required, but tooled for emotional resonance as well. The set, minimal yet striking, was dominated by two huge rings, one onstage and one above, which changed color to reflect the many moods of Drake. (Judging by the lighting design, he mostly has blue moods and red moods.) The floor of the lower ring was an intricate pattern suggesting ancient runes or a collage of countless QR codes, and the overall vibe was sleek and futuristic. At one point the stage flooded with reddish lights and smoke and I was worried that Darth Vader was about to order Drake frozen in carbonite.