4 Nov 2017

Drake live at Spark Arena: all bravado and cheekiness

From RNZ Music, 12:20 pm on 4 November 2017

Drake Photo: supplied

Drake said it best when he said that sparks flew at Spark Arena last night. His Auckland concert was his first in five months, and the first stop on this leg of the Boy Meets World Tour.

Dressed in a Prada tracksuit, he bounced around the stage on his toes like a boxer about to step into the ring. Jets of flame and fireworks burst out of the stage at all angles.

‘Started from the Bottom’ came early in the set, all bravado and cheekiness (“I wear every single chain even when I’m in the house”), before moving onto ‘HYFR’, one of his earlier songs with Li’l Wayne.

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Photo: RNZ / Ellen Falconer

He introduced himself (“My name is Drake and I’m from Toronto, Canada”) and told the crowd he was going to take us on a journey, “because that’s my job”. For an artist who hasn’t even been around a decade, there was not a single weak spot in his two-hour set – a reflection of the work ethic he often boasts about (“Twenty-five sittin’ on $25 mil.,” he rapped at one point).

When he spotted people sitting down in the front row, he teased them, telling them to stand up. “I’m working my ass off, and you’re sitting down, chilling, having drinks!”

When he first came to New Zealand in 2015, Drake’s performance was strong, but the production of the show was minimal, like it had been hastily cobbled together to collect an easy million-dollar paycheck. This time around, the production values were impressive. Drake placed himself in the centre of the arena, running back and forth without any signs of tiring. Maybe that fancy tracksuit helped.

It was during ‘Hotline Bling’ that the true magic of the stage was revealed.  When the cha-cha beat kicked in the spherical lights hanging from the ceiling dropped down and danced in time to the music.

Throughout the rest of the night, the dancing baubles moved in formation, sometimes creating waves, sometimes pyramids or sometimes arcing over the stage, framing the man underneath the spotlight. It was one of the best stage productions I have ever seen at a concert, and made the slightly-more-than-I-would-normally-pay ticket price absolutely worth it.

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Photo: RNZ / Ellen Falconer

From ‘Hotline’, Drake moved onto ‘Hold on we’re Going Home’, and ‘Jumpman’, and kept the Rihanna fans happy with snippets of ‘Work’ and ‘Take Care’, before launching into ‘Too Good’ in full. The ‘Controlla’-‘One Dance’ back to back was another highlight in a set list full of highlights.

In the final third of the set, the boy met his world. A globe was inflated from the centre of the stage, with Drake running around it in orbit.

When Drake sang “I’m a motherf***ing legend” in his closing song (‘Legend’) of the night after keeping an audience of thousands hyped for the entirety of his set, no one in the audience could dispute those words.