Despite his name Future was a thing of the past by the time I made it to my seat in the Saddledome on Saturday November 30 just 15 minutes after he was supposed to have started his set. He must’ve been alotted a tiny amount of time but I can only imagine that the half-empty hall with the house lights on wouldn’t have done his brash street anthems much justice.
Instead after a brief intermission to allow for a modest-but-impressive light setup Miguel took the stage and put simply commanded the fuck out of it. The best sort of opening act the Los Angeles-based R&B great powered through his catalogue with a heavy focus on his fantastic 2012 effort Kaleidoscope Dream . He even inspired a deliciously goofy singalong of "tell me that the pussy is mine" the refrain from his sexy studio experiment called well "Pussy is Mine."
Backed by one of those session musician bands who’ve likely appeared on Leno multiple times playing multiple genres of music there was a lot of wanking going on in the instrument department. Fortunately for every unneccessary tom fill Miguel offered up twice the energy in his little area sexily slinking around the stage in a tassled leather jacket and evoking girlish screams when he dropped it to reveal his perfectly sculpted arms. Those girlish screams came from me.
The rest of the crowd was loving it too — when Miguel changed the lyrics of one of his songs to sing the word "Calgary" a drunk girl behind me shredded her throat to belt out "YYC!!!" If only Miguel had sung the " Rebuild Anthem ."
All told a lesser headliner would’ve had the show stolen by Miguel. Though he was relegated to a small cube in front of the stage he had us all in the palm of his hand. By the time he closed out his set with the impossibly sultry "Adorn" we were all melting together. Well except for the very adult man beside me who was checking out sweet pics of his buddy’s new baby chair setup on his Samsung Galaxy.
Another intermission and the crowd was getting amped. I saw rich oil dads doing the "hang loose" sign thinking it was "rock on" devil horns while they gently swayed to 2 Chainz’ "Feds Watching." The 18-year-old girls beside me strategized how they’d get into Cowboys after the show (because that’s totally where Drake would hang out) while talking about how much they loved this one Juicy J song that was on (it was actually Rick Ross). Others shuffled to their seats carrying an assortment of concession products from elaborate nachos to dugout dogs to so much ‘Dome foam filling the venue with a pungent aroma of processed cheese.
It was all getting a little annoying particularly when every single person in my section was pointing and gawking at the girl with a Nicki Minaj-sized posterior on the lower level. Like I’m talking trip-to-the-zoo level of open finger-pointing and audible gawking from at least 10 people. Fortunately the lights quickly dimmed and Drake made a very strong case for himself as an arena headliner.
Kicking off with the incredible Nothing Was the Same opener "Tuscan Leather" Drizzy certainly made sure nothing was the same. The stage was an immaculate lit-up circle with the band playing in a strange contained orchestra pit in the middle. Behind him there was an enormous screen that focused on bright colours tasteful visuals (there was no gross dollar sign clip art reminiscent of discount streetwear like Jay Z had when he was last here) more lights all over plenty of fog and smoke and so many lasers.
Yet almost none of it was necessary — Drake’s onstage energy was palpable and had the crowd pumped up without stop for the full two-hour set. A true hit machine he brought out A material from all of his full-lengths with a special focus on his latest LP. He also spat out plenty of guest verses including the electric guest spot he threw Migos’ way on their 2013 masterpiece "Versace" the sexed-up French Montana twerk anthem "Pop That" and the DJ Khaled mega-jam "No New Friends."
Drake did manage to bring out some friends nearly blowing up the venue with an explosive Future collaboration on "Same Damn Time" and some sultry Jhene Aiko collaborations including the excellent "From Time." From what I could hear Aiko’s voice sounded incredible though her mic was mixed way too low. For songs as immaculately produced as Drake’s the poor audio mix was an issue more than once as booming bass was favoured over subtle synth flares.
As a performer Drake was passionate and engaging though not without his cliches. He too changed the words of songs to awkwardly shoehorn "Calgary" in there occasionally to the detriment of his verses while he kept talking about how it wasn’t just the best night of tour but one of the best nights of his whole life. He was convincing too — typing it out now I realize he was spewing bullshit but it felt sincere at the time.
Drake’s arena-performer facade nearly fell apart however when he did the standard "woo a lady from the crowd" bit during his pitch-perfect ’80s R&B jam "Hold On We’re Going Home." Halfway through the song he said "I’m going to need some help with this one from a fine lady in the audience" at which point a security guard ushered a bewildered middle aged woman to the stage. Clad in full-body black leather and remarkably fake blonde hair (probably a wig) she looked like a middle-aged extra from a small theatre company’s failed Grease adaptation.
Most notably however she was completely wasted wandering around the stage and biting on her bottom lip uncomfortably. She tried her hardest to avoid eye contact with Drake while he sang to her and when she did meet his eyes she scrunched up her face in a very peculiar way. Drake bless his soul tried his hardest to keep up the charade singing to the woman (her name was Lynn by the way) and even smooching her neck a little. Eventually enough was enough and Drake burst out laughing.
First he made a joke about her wallet chain then said "I’m going to have you escorted off the stage now because you’ve clearly drank a whole bottle of Absolut." When she was gone he pointed out that she reminded him of an old babysitter he had. "What the fuck just happened that was weird" he said. Poor Lynn. Hopefully she got to ride home on the back of a sweet motorbike breaking into song and stopping at a ’50s diner on the way.
The weirdness of Drake’s rendesvous with Lynn could’ve derailed the whole show but instead he bounced back with even more confidence. Then a giant walkway descended from the ceiling and our boy spent a long time walking above the crowd shouting out specific things on people’s outfits with the house lights on. He’d sing-rap "I see you in that sweater you’ve never looked better" and the whole thing lasted for about 10 minutes.
It had a strange culty vibe with everyone eagerly freaking out for Drake’s acknowledgement and approval but it was also a nice and unique way to break up the show. It was also a great time to catch up on Twitter. R.I.P. Paul Walker.
One woman in front of me took her bra off and giddily swung it around her head in the hopes that Drake would notice her. Instead and for a very long time she continued to hit the poor young girls behind her in the eye with her bra clasp. Meanwhile a girl behind me filming the show on her iPad. The security guards just trying to do their job must’ve thought that iPads fell under the "no professional camera equipment" rule and stood there for a long time scoilding her. When he left I heard her yell "What the fuck! That guy just restored my iPad!" If you don’t own any Apple products that means he erased the whole thing. Can’t let that top-notch iPad-quality Drake footage hit the web.
Distractions aside Drake closed out the set with a literally explosive rendition of his addictive anthem "Started From the Bottom" complete with a near-uncomfortable amount of fireworks on the stage. Backed by footage culled from his entire career from Degrassi to various rap videos the closing song demonstrated just how far this sensi R&B rap kid has come. He might be pandering to the audience like the best of them (he even pretended he was treating us to a longer set but it was nearly identical to the setlists on other nights of the tour) he’s got the talent and the deep discography to back it up. Put simply Drake is a confident hit-machine who commands the stage just as well as he demands the studio.