sat 29/02/2020

Drake, O2 Arena review - stadium hip-hop has a sincerity problem | reviews, news & interviews

Drake, O2 Arena review - stadium hip-hop has a sincerity problem

Drake, O2 Arena review - stadium hip-hop has a sincerity problem

Drizzy went showbizzy on the Assassination Vacation tour, but star power wasn't enough

Drake: trying too hard to impress

Drake walked on water at times in his opening show at the O2 Arena. Sadly this was solely down to the impressive video projection that filled the giant screens beneath his feet. The 32-year-old Canadian rapper is one of the biggest-selling stars in the world – at one point last year he had a hard-to-believe 27 tracks on America’s Billboard Hot 100 chart. But here he produced a patchy, stop-start performance, in which he seemed obsessed with whipping up the crowd to keep the energy levels high, when one glance at his own back catalogue could have told him – just play one great song after another and that will look after itself.

Whenever he did that, the audience responded with wild abandon. There were strong versions of “Fake Love”, from his 2017 album More Life, and “Know Yourself”, from the 2015 mixtape If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. Drake has an embarrassment of riches to draw on but some of his million-sellers were tossed in as if he was flipping quarters – barely a chorus of “Hotline Bling”, and a brief blast of “One Dance”. In one sequence, snatches of songs tracing his 10-year career were played out like a quiz for his fans. Do you remember this one? This young crowd invariably did, but not enough to sing it back deafeningly to him.

There was serious money on show. That constantly shifting video floor was something else: at one moment, Drake could be strolling above a pool with women swimming below him, the next he could be floating in space. There were fireworks, dancers, smoke plumes, lasers, a model of a Ferrari floating above the crowd, a basketball court picked out with lasers. Then he topped the lot by bringing on fellow rap royalty, Future.

One of the biggest roars of the night arrived when Peckham rapper Giggs bounced on to join Drake for a mighty version of “KMT” from More Life. Drake’s a generous personality and was happy to share the stage, but when Giggs stayed on to sing an unadorned "187", it showed up one of the problems with his own performance. Drake’s true strengths as an artist, brilliant songwriting and an ability to switch between the warm burr of his singing voice and the soft rasp that delivers his intelligent, pointed lyrics were being drowned out by the bombast of the show.

Drake’s voice can be so melancholic, sweet and sexy but that wasn’t really on the rider for tonight. Stadium-level hip-hop has developed a sincerity problem and too much of the stage patter rings like empty showbiz cliché. “If you want me to keep going all night…” Drake bellowed, but it wasn’t true. This show was choreographed to the max, right down to the ticker-tape explosion during the closing “God’s Plan”. The idea that Drake was going to be sweating his way into the early hours was a non-starter. Drake could do worse than take it back to basics for his next tour. He’s a great artist trying too hard to impress.

There was serious money on show. That constantly shifting video floor was something else


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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