“I’m so happy I finally made it home,” Toronto superstar Drake said from the stage at the first of seven arena shows in London. You might suspect that he says something along these charming lines in every city he visits, but there’s plenty of evidence for a special relationship between Aubrey Graham and the UK.
Midway through this packed set, he showed the depth of his knowledge of London’s scene by bringing out drill acts Digdat and Unknown T to rap on top of a Union Jack. Later he was joined by a bigger local rapper, Giggs – “My brother from another mother,” as Drake put it – for the Londoner’s song 187.
“There’s no love that I get in the world like I get from London,” he continued. We’re the ones who kept his single One Dance at number one for a Bryan Adams-threatening 15 weeks in 2016, then put God’s Plan in the same spot for a further two months last year. His omnivorous musical style, rapping and singing, touching on house, dancehall, New Orleans bounce and afrobeats as well as tough hip hop and smoochy R&B, is the dominant sound of the streaming era.
The O2 Arena went out of its way to welcome him, changing it’s signage to “O3” in reference to one of his lyrics. The crowd on the floor was hysterically hospitable too, despite missing out on half of the show – a video screen the size of a basketball court which formed the stage in the centre of the room.
From high up, we could see Drake hotfooting it across boiling lava, standing atop colourful computer murmurations and literally walking on water on two occasions – one a rough sea, the other a turquoise pool with swimmers beneath.
Songs, guests and effects raced past the lone man centre stage. Major North American rappers Future and Tory Lanez also arrived. Rihanna’s Work was given one chorus. A full-size yellow Ferrari floated around the room briefly without meriting comment. So much, so mixed, so momentary – it was the experience of being a music fan in 2019 delivered by its master.
Until Apr 11, O2 Arena, SE10 (the02.co.uk)