The Hydro – 15/3

It’s debatable that Drake was ever at the bottom, but true enough, tonight he is here. The swag factor is off the charts in The Hydro as a DJ pumps mainstream hip hop tunes over the PA, inciting a mass karaoke version of Beyonce’s ‘Drunk in Love’, before The Weeknd shows up to seduce the pants off everyone.

Abel Tesfaye’s voice is incredible, both on record and in the live environment. Every note is pitch perfect and every word is crystal clear, so it’s no surprise his vocals are turned way up in the live mix. Regardless, his live show doesn’t pack the punch of the headliner, whether it’s because the audio doesn’t seem quite as loud, his band doesn’t have as much oomph, or he just has a little more to learn about filling arenas. There are plenty reppin’ the XO merch tonight though and with a 45 minute set and a rapid fire delivery of notable tunes (though nothing from either Thursday or Echoes of Silence), The Weeknd’s set is satisfying enough.

Toronto’s favourite son is feeling brave tonight. His band are buried in a pit at the back of the set, leaving Drake a lone figure on the massive stage, surrounded by neon lights, lasers, images of his home city, and live camera feeds. He’s not worried, and he needn’t be, since his one-man presence is captivating as he strides the stage, charming everyone with his pleasant personality and to-die-for vocals.

Roughly 36 tracks are aired in 90 minutes – in a bid to get through as many songs as possible, many tunes are hacked down so that one verse and one chorus from each is aired before quickly rushing on to the next. Just as you sink into opener ‘Tuscan Leather’, Take Care’s ‘Headlines’ hits you, before The Weeknd joins Drake for (the entirety of) ‘Crew Love’, only to slip back into ‘Tuscan Leather”s third verse.

The bigger hits get the full-song treatment – ‘Worst Behaviour”s vitriolic defiance pumps the crowd up after an elongated ‘Hold On, We’re Going Home’, which saw one woman being pulled on stage for Drake to serenade personally. It became rather self-parodying after a while – Good Guy Drake being all lovely, living up to his positive media image. Other Good Guy Drake moments include striding out over the crowd with his own walkway to point at a lot of people just to say hello, and highlighting a girl in the front row who knew literally every word to the whole set (for proof, he turned the live camera on her for the duration of ‘All Me’, and he was right).

Apart from the latter half of ‘Hold On…’ and his extended greeting session, his set was explosive (literally), energetic, and the pace never lulled. Set closer ‘Started From the Bottom’ felt appropriately like a celebration, but one at which Drake was honoured for us all to be there.

[Scott Wilson]

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