Drake - Gexa Energy Pavilion - 5/16/12

I see you Drake, paging through Fifty Shades of Grey at Barnes & Noble. I heard that book's good.
I see you Drake, paging through Fifty Shades of Grey at Barnes & Noble. I heard that book's good.
All photos by Rachel Parker. See more in our slideshow.

Drake Gexa Energy Pavilion Wednesday, May 16

Q: How Many Writers Does It Take To Review a Drake Concert?

In the span of Drake's set last night, I felt alternately excited, flummoxed and bored, which is sort of the trajectory of the first month or so of a doomed relationship, where you're waiting for the other person's flaws to all come tumbling out, but you're "having fun" in the meantime.

Why does Drake flummox me so? Is it the faux-nice guy posturing? The jokes that we're not sure are jokes or some sharper knife he's digging in? There's that line in "Dreams Money Can Buy," where he tells his lady, "We got company coming over, would it kill you to put some pants on," which at first struck me as funny, but then I wondered if it was an insult.

I didn't dislike Take Care, it felt a little more existential than your typical modern rap album. Live, you could see Drake as the theater kid. His dance moves were awkward and dramatic, and his energy was appealing. The "I see you" part took up nearly half an hour, though I did laugh when he told that one girl her leopard print dress looked like curtains his mom had. Zing. Flummoxed again.

The "I see you" bit: Hunter, you mentioned that, as tiresome as it was, when he finally got over to our side of the crowd, you wanted to him to see you. Why is that? What were your thoughts?

And Shahryar, you're a bigger fan than either of us. What did you think? - Audra Schroeder

It's funny that Drake mentioned the critics saying his songs are only for women. As a bro who's come around from hater to reluctant fan, I don't remember any of my critiques being about the audience. My issue was his delivery and a bit of the content. (If I have to critique the audience, I would swipe the young'uns in the lawn section for their inability to hold drinks, in their hand or otherwise. It's barely adorable.)

How was his delivery live? As you said before, Drake came off as awkward yet energetic. Drake dancing on stage reminded me of the funny dance from his Bar Mitzvah in the video for "HYFR." He still dances awkwardly after all these years.

I actually don't mind the "I see you" part of the show - live hip-hop tends to be interactive, and with such a massive audience at Gexa, an artist has to scale it with set pieces like that. It did get a bit too interactive, though, what with that woman and the volleyballs bolted on her chest.

I was also fascinated by the stage setup, with the screen grid and pyrotechnics. Rick Ross' "Stay Schemin," the track where French Montana appeared on stage with Drake, was accompanied by a neat Wargames-like visual on the screens. Any stage tricks stand out for you guys? - Shahryar Rizvi

You're a good man, Shahryar, for not spending much time critiquing Drake's audience, because all I could think about last night was how hard I hated them. Most who surrounded Audra and myself at "Club Paradise" were of the teenage and college-age variety and, rather than dropping drinks, they were busy searching for lost phones on the ground, leaning forward so that their bloody-murder screams directly pierced my eardrums, generally failing to consider anyone else's existence but Drake's. A couple songs in, four high school girls with bare midriffs decided to stand on their chairs in front of us, completely blocking Drake's awkward dance moves. I spent most of the show alternating my gaze from a large left-side screen to a constantly moving, cutoff-adorned ass. Not cute.

Anyone who felt they weren't getting enough ass twerkage in front of them could simply look to the screens during the aforementioned "I see you" crowd-interaction segment, and see plenty of sad ploys for Drake's attention. He singled out dozens of people, mostly identifying them by their clothing.

Sample: "Shout out baby girl right there in the pink, lookin' all sexy and shit."

When he got to Miss Watermelons 2012, her unabashed nipples greeting Drake and his cameraman for what seemed like minutes, he had a special message: "Put your tits away and shit; we gotta move on." Had to have been a proud moment for her.

Yes, Audra, once Dreezy (or is it Drizzy?) started shouting out fans on our side, I suddenly felt the strange but universal desire to be seen by him. I admit, I got caught up in wanting to find Drake's love. But suddenly a young lady several rows behind us removed all her clothing except boy briefs and hiked her leg up on a guard rail. On the second leg hike, I looked away. I knew I couldn't compete with that kind of dedication.

I did find myself impressed by all the stage tricks, though, Shahryar. That large grid of video screens had the wow factor, especially when all 160 of them showed the same creepy face. And, when Drake was on, he was on: "Crew Love," "Miss Me" and that entire segment featuring the opening-act rappers had a kind of hypnotic energy, helping the artist defy the one-note-'n'-whiny label I'd assigned him in my mind.

But once the initial excitement and special-effects-inspired awe wore off, and Drake began a long chain of slower singalongs, the performance became more than a little coast-y. - Hunter Hauk


The stage show was definitely cool, and I'm a sucker for all the shiny tricks, but I couldn't quite tell what Drake wanted us to think of him. He obviously does care, or he wouldn't have taken as much time out to "see us." The term "emo rapper" makes my blood boil, and I don't think that's what Drake is. He's turned his loathing inward, which Take Care shows, but, for all his emotional boasting, has he really done anything transgressive? I feel like last night he was trying to show us soul-searching Drake and asshole Drake. Then I have to remember he's a theater kid. I guess I would be more engaged if his music made me feel the weight of his existential dread. Maybe now I'm being a masochist. - AS

Drake is an actor. I think this fact sort of dashes our disbelief in whichever role he plays on stage. In the current hip-hop climate, we also have artists like Childish Gambino (Note: also an actor) dealing out more emotional weight to listeners than Drake without the dazzling stage pieces.

If introspective rap is a surprise to either of you, I recommend Kanye West's 2007 album Graduation. I can still remember the hyped contest between that album and 50 Cent's Curtis, released on the same day. In short, Graduation won out, marking the transition in popular hip-hop from gangsters to graduates.

In this context, Drake was unqualified for the scene when Thank Me Later came out in 2010. Drake has improved in two years, and my mind changed about him along the way. I now understand why his music targets women, because the scene was crowded with introspective rappers, and Drake saw an opportunity in an ignored demographic. As we saw last night, they really like it. - SR

See also: Drake's after party at Zouk

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