Never underestimate the power of a hit. Or 180+ of them, the number of songs that Drake has placed across several smash single forums in his decade working the ropes of the recording biz. For when Drizzy and Atlanta’s Quavo, Offset and Takeoff sold out the first of two shows for its “Aubrey & The Three Migos” showcase at Wells Fargo Center on Saturday, there was little for the pairing to do, but perform its wealth of best-known songs. The fact that Philly’s own Meek Mill, Drake’s longtime nemesis, joined the party at the end of Drizzy’s set just made the night that much greater.
Performing on a clean, rectangular stage, lit-from-below and in the center of the room, gave each act unencumbered freedom. For Quavo, Offset and Takeoff, that meant prowling the stage’s expanse while parsing its mix of fluid raps and AutoTune-icy crooning from the aptly-titled haunter “Fright Night,” and the equally sinister “Ice Tray,” to the goofy “Ric Flair Drip,” and the rapidly pulsating, “Bad and Boujee.” When the jumpsuit-sporting Migos threesome showed up during Drake’s set, they brought the hard and angular blaxploitative funk of “Stir Fly” and, of course, their Drizzy collab of 2013, “Versace.”
When it came to Drake’s wild set, the stage came alive with vivid projections and turned it into a swimming pool, a basketball court, a stormy night, a gihugic cellphone, and even a scorpion in reference to his newest album. This extended stage allowed Drake to bop, skip, hop and box his way through everything from slow, hymnal moments such as “Blue Tint,” and the cool “Emotionless,” to the dancehall-inspired trio of “Controlla,” “One Dance,” and “Hotline Bling.”
“Do you know it’s been ten years that we’ve been together…. I wonder if you even remember half the shit that we’ve been through?,” he asked, before launching into a series of early singles too-quickly abbreviated “Pop Style” and “HYFR,” as well as blips like his verse from Gucci Mane’s “Both,” and a chunk of his remix of Fetty Wap’s “My Way.”
As hip-hop/R&B’s preeminent paranoid lover man, the lament of “Jaded,” and its “Always felt like stickin’ ’round’s the same as being stuck” line seemed particularly poignant. “Can’t Take a Joke,” was appropriately bitter and biting. So too did the butter melting “Don’t Matter to Me” (featuring a posthumous vocal track from Michael Jackson) and a breezy, quiet cover of MJ’s “Rock With You” ring the right romantic bells. “Nice for What,” even looked beyond his own gripes to applaud working women everywhere. “There’s a real one in your reflection,” he rapped.
Forty four songs after he started, and already one of 2018’s most enviable sets, Drake still managed to save the best for (near) last when he brought out Philly’s own, Meek Mill, who has famously had more than 99 problems to his name of late. Where Drizzy and Millz stand, their troubles go back four years to a Twitter war and a dis track battle that Drake mostly won, but sort-of ended in a fizzle. Until the other night in Boston, that is, when Drake welcomed Mill to the stage. That Drake brought Meek out in Philly, calling him “ a king,” and saying Meek “calls the shots,” was gracious and great. Drake played hype man to Mill during his loud, proud raw rendition of “Dreams and Nightmares,” they hugged-hand shook it out, and Drake went about the business of executing a gorgeous “God’s Plan,” as the night’s closer, before exiting into the stage and fading to black. Watch Drake & Meek’s performance via YouTube below.
Amazing show. Tickets still available for the Sunday 9/16 show – available here.