It is easy to forget how many hit songs Drake created in his nearly 15-year musical career – but he presented an emphatic reminder with an intimate concert at Harlem’s Apollo Theatre in New York on Saturday, his first show at the legendary venue.
During the performance, the four-time Grammy winner teased that new music could be on the way, despite releasing two albums last year.
“I thought about a bunch of things in life, but at this moment in time, none of those things are stopping making music for you,” Drake told the doting crowd.
“I hope I can strike up some more emotions for you, maybe this year – I might get bored and make another one.”
The first night of two Apollo weekend shows presented by SiriusXM, featured Drake, 36, ripping off songs at a frantic pace, most with just a verse and chorus, satisfying day-one fans with fan-favourite, deep non-radio cuts as well as those only familiar with his number one hits.
The recorded performances will air on Drake’s SiriusXM Sound 42 channel in the coming weeks.
Noting that this was his first show in about five years and later saying “I’ll be out and about on the road a lot this year”, Spotify’s most-streamed artist in the US last year told his captivated audience the show was about gratefulness.
“I wanted to make this a show about gratitude,” Drake said.
“This is a little story we put together: my deep love for my family, for my dear friends and each and every one of you that have been supporting me for a long time.”
With cornrows in his hair and wearing baggy jeans and a blue and yellow basketball jersey – a nod to his days as an actor on the teen drama series Degrassi – Drake opened the performance with Over My Dead Body as celebrity guests such as Justin and Hailey Bieber and rappers A$AP Ferg and A Boogie wit da Hoodie watched.
Sitting on a bed positioned stage-right, modelled after his bedroom in his mother’s Toronto basement where he said he wrote songs, Drake belted out many of his down-tempo, B-side hits such as Wu-Tang Forever, Trust Issues, Practice and Feel No Ways.
He also sang his most popular deep cut, Marvin’s Room, as the standing-room only crowd joined him word-for-word before transitioning into his hook from Timbaland’s Say Something as the Marvin’s Room beat continued.
As the bedroom set dimmed and the light shifted to the left side of the stage, revealing a boardroom, Drake changed into a black leather hoodie with his OVO owl symbol.
The rapper stood in front of a performer playing a record label executive who sceptically noted it was “interesting” he was a rapper from Canada, before saying, “All right, let’s see what you got.”
(Drake would later remind the crowd how every major record label in New York passed on him.)
Starting with Best I Ever Had, the R&B smash that jump-started his career, he continued his musical journey with early Young Money hits such as Headlines, HYFR, Started From The Bottom and I’m On One.
The crowd also two-stepped to his more danceable records like Massive from last year’s Honestly, Nevermind project, as well as Hold On, We’re Going Home, One Dance, Passionfruit and In My Feelings.
The final leg of the 90-minute set opened with a surprise performance by the popular early 2000s Harlem rap collective The Diplomats, which featured Drake wearing Cam’ron’s signature pink hoodie and headband.
He was then joined by 21 Savage to perform songs such as Rich Flex, Spin Bout You and Knife Talk from their joint project, Her Loss, released in November.
The longtime tagline for the Apollo is Where Stars Are Born And Legends Are Made, so it was either strategic or serendipitous that he ended the show with Legend.
While it might be too soon to drape him with the legend moniker in the manner that Apollo Walk of Fame stars such Michael Jackson, Prince, Aretha Franklin and James Brown carry, he left no doubt that he is well on his way.
The show was briefly halted when a fan appeared to fall from a balcony onto the crowd below. But after establishing nobody was badly hurt, the set continued.
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