Concert review: Drake takes it to the top


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The plan was for Drake to launch his tour in Portland, Ore., three weeks ago, but the way things go he was kind of, you know, on hip-hop time.

A bunch of dates got pushed back and the happy result is that Pittsburgh got its second tour premiere in a week Friday night at Consol Energy Center (last Friday, Pearl Jam, very different audience).

In Drake's mind -- like in every rapper's mind -- he's the biggest MC in the game, and he also has some numbers to back it up. When "Nothing Was the Same" debuted last month, the Toronto rapper had a bigger opening week than both Kanye and Jay-Z.

Speak of the devils, this is a rare city where their Watch the Throne show didn't sell out -- and neither did this one, as some of the top sections were curtained off.

The word going in, from someone who knows, a high school senior, was "there will be a lot of girls there." Just about 80 percent or so. That's how Drake rolls -- he's a romantic so in touch with his feelings you might need tissues. Drake does lonely with the best of them.

But that's only half the story on the triumphant Would You Like a Tour? Tour. Drake comes at you with some energy, too, so this was no downbeat affair, not by a long shot.

Drake's stage had a clean futuristic design with the DJs in a lighted tilted circle with another one above shooting down lights, and a giant curved screen behind for atmospheric footage. He hit that stage with "Tuscan Leather," Headlines" and "Crew Love," running around like a power forward.

"I know that we've shared moments before," he told the crowd. "I got a lot of love for you, Pittsburgh."

All in loose fitting black, he went to work slamming through partial songs, seeming determined to pack as many as possible into the 100-minute set.

The rumor just a few days ago was that Atlanta rapper Future was off the tour for critical words about Drake's album, but that was him on the opening set and then back on stage with Drake early on doing bangers like "Same Damn Time." Drake kept that party going with a wild cover of A$AP Rocky's "[Expletive Problems]" and his own "HYFR."

Soon after, he slowed it down for "The Motion" and to welcome a lovely Jhene Aiko for sultry duets on "Come Thru" and "From Time." After a DJ interlude, he returned to show off his R&B vocal chops on "Hold On, We're Going Home" and "Connect."

Late in the set, he scored the perfect walk-on: Wiz Khalifa for "Black and Yellow," sending the hometown crowd into a frenzy that involved jumping and screaming while capturing as much video as possible.

Those cameras stayed out for the night's dazzling, big-budget effect: Drake getting out to the people high up on the shiny circular ramp that covered almost the entire floor. "I feel like Bon Jovi on this [thing]," he said, before spending almost 15 minutes working the crowd like he was in the Catskills.

As the new hit went, started from the bottom -- now he's here.

Miguel, one of the best singers in the game, shared his Prince-ly talents over a 45-minute opening set. The LA singer was a rock star in his black fringed leather jacket, white jeans and red flannel, and he topped his slick four-piece band with smoldering bedroom vocals, a soaring falsetto and just the right amount of grit on "All I Want Is You," "#Beautiful," "Adorn" and other faves from his two acclaimed albums.

"How many drinks would it take you to leave with me, babe?" he sang to his fans. The overwhelming answer seemed to be just one or none.

Before that, on a sliver of the stage, singer Party Next Door, from Drake's label, did a pleasant if unengaging R&B track set, and Future, comparable in style to Wiz, had everybody up for slinky party anthems like "Neva End" and "Turn Up the Lights."

musicreviews

Scott Mervis: smervis@post-gazette.com; 412-263-2576. Twitter: @scottmervis_pg. First Published October 18, 2013 8:00 PM


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