By David Flanigan (@DavFlan)
It is almost unfathomable in 2017 that there was a time when Drake was merely Lil Wayne’s timid wing man and fellow Young Money hashtag-rap perpetrator, such is his prominence at the top of mainstream music food-chain. His ‘The Boy Meets World Tour’ is his first series of headline UK in three years, (the span of which has seen him shed his perennial “nice guy” of R&B and Hip-Hop tag to become one the biggest names in western entertainment outright), concluding with this, the second of two sold-out Glasgow SSE Hydro shows.
‘Trophies’ is the most fitting of openers, its bombast and fanfare setting the tone for a pyrotechnic-laden superfecta of an opening, with Started From the Bottom, Headlines, and H.Y.F.R. (Hell Ya Fuckin’ Right) following in close proximity. More recent efforts follow: Keep The Family Close’s Bond-esque orchestral opening teases in a trio of Views tracks: Still Here, Child’s Play and Feel No Ways – the breezy most-latter was a highlight of the record, and it translates superbly live.
Likewise more restrained hits: Hotline Bling and Hold On, We’re Going Home signal expected mass singalongs, sound-tracking a cascade of suspended pink spheres rising and falling from the Hydro ceiling for ten minutes of perfect audio-visual harmony.
While utterly breakneck at times, Drake’s set is well curated. Very few tracks are played in their studio entirety; Views was wildly commercially successful, but bloated and largely sonically minimal – many of its contributions are trimmed, with the vacuous 9 for example, going over far greater in a live context than on the album itself.
This curation does entail concessions, notable tracks: Take Care, Worst Behavior, Crew Love, Too Much are played only in snippets or teased in an extensive early medley, Drake’s live show is ostensibly about his present rather than his past, the most-former serving only as an introduction for a double-header of his more recent Rihanna collaborations: Work and Too Good. He does however, wisely chose to limit material from his More Life project, released barely a week prior, to interludes and transitions, barring lead single ‘Fake Love’, played at the set’s close.
Regardless, this ‘supercut’ approach works largely in his favour: Worst Behavior in particular sparks a half-minute of audience bedlam, justifying his mid-set medley – as Drake missiles through several of his past trap-tinged collaborations: Migos’ Versace, Big Sean’s Blessings, to compliment his own All Me and 6 God, maintaining crowd energy levels throughout.
Drake is unashamedly chatty, dedicating a solid ten minutes mid-set to audience shout-outs. His constant repeated odes to positivity throughout the show, clichéd as they obviously are, still manage to feel honest enough (especially when accompanied by his charming mispronunciation of “Glas-gaaow”), a little overbearing they may be – that is more or less the point, and the sentiment is sound.
While his musical tourism on more recent projects has drawn some critical ire, Drake pays homage to the Dancehall and Grime he continues to flirt with: summoning Popcaan and Giggs respectively for a track each, in addition to a cover of Jamie xx’s I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times) for the former – offering an appropriate lead into Views’ Dancehall-inspired singles: Controlla and the all-time highest-streamed-track-on-Spotify mega-hit One Dance.
The close of the set is a bonafide victory lap, as Drake paces round a giant inflatable globe in the centre of the arena. If You’re Reading This pair Energy and Know Yourself join Views cut Pop Style and the aforementioned Fake Love, culminating with Legend – one final en-masse chorus and self-love soliloquy.
Drake’s ‘The Boy Meets World Tour’ set strikes a tidy balance between outright populism; playing the hits for a casual crowd, and still appropriately representing the UK leg of his Views tour. A masterclass in sheer spectacle if nothing else, it is a show unquestionably befitting the biggest male artist on the planet.