NEW YORK -- Let's face it: Drake is big enough to be doing arenas like Madison Square Garden by himself. On his Light Dreams and Nightmares Tour, he's selling out theaters in back-to-back nights in major cities such as Miami and Chicago. But, although he's ascended to the top of the music game way quicker than most MCs and singers, the 23-year-old is into paying dues and taking it slow.
"We didn't go the arena-tour route yet," he explained earlier this month during rehearsals for the VMAs. "I didn't tag along with somebody else's tour. We still do theaters, maximum 5,000 people. It's intimate. I want people to walk away and say, 'That was a great show. It was a fun time.' "
On Tuesday night (September 28), Drizzy's intimate odyssey landed in New York at Radio City Music Hall for the first of two shows. The words "Sold Out" (for both nights) were illuminated on the landmark marquee while many gleeful young girls practically skipped into the venue, singing "Fancy" and anxious to see the heartthrob and acclaimed lyricist.
Light Dreams and Nightmares is Drizzy's most expansive exploration yet. He has an hour and 45 minutes of set time scheduled every night; that's up 30 minutes from his Away From Home jaunt earlier this year. With more time, the door is left open for some guest spots like "Money to Blow" and his now-signature bangers like "Miss Me," along with show staples "Best I Ever Had" and "Successful."
Drake was backed by a band and lights that changed with the mood of his records.
"It's a really stunning setup," he explained last week in the M.I.A., right before the second of two nights of shows in the Sunshine State. "Heavily influenced by Jimi Hendrix. Not necessarily any set he designed, but more so his music and the vibe ... It's very psychedelic. It's very much based on day and night, times of day. I carry you through a full day in the show. It's cool, man, I'm enjoying it ... It's great for me as a performer. I still work just as hard, but it's almost like I'm performing with another element. I'm growing."
Drake's show started with his lauded "9AM in Dallas." He first stood sideways, rapping into the mic after he strolled onstage. Now facing the crowd, the Young Money ambassador went into "Forever." With his shades still snuggled over his eyes, he did a soulful clap at the end of his verse, signaling "Up All Night." The crowd was into all of his selections.
"I came here to further our relationship," he told the spectators. He then welcomed his fans to call him "Drizzy Drake," or "Aubrey Graham" if they watched him on "Degrassi." He declared that he came to share his life with them, but "wouldn't sugarcoat it."
The bittersweet revelations came courtesy of "Karaoke."
"Things have been so crazy and hectic, I should've gotten back by now," everyone sang along with him. "But you know how much I wanted to make it, it's probably better anyhow/ So if you gotta go, if there's anything I should know/ If the spotlight makes you nervous."
The mood and the lights lightened with some of Drizzy's most-famous party records. Birdman came out for "Money to Blow," while Mack Maine sang his verse on "Every Girl." Mack stayed onstage while the tour's opening act, Tyga, made a return for "Bedrock." Later, Drake said he wanted to bring out one of his favorite MCs in the game right now.
Jigga? Eminem? No. It was J. Cole. The Roc Nation up-and-comer performed "Who Dat."
Minutes later, the attention shifted back toward the ladies. Drake said he wanted to bring a female onstage, but warned that she might get sucked on or licked. He did neither. The perfect gentleman gave the lady a kiss on both cheeks and a BlackBerry Torch as a gift.
There was one more ace up Drake's sleeve before the night was over. Young Jeezy, who was celebrating his birthday, came out for "Unforgettable." This was a major surprise, given that the Snowman didn't come out earlier, when Drake performed the remix to Jeezy's "Lose My Mind."
The fervor was turned up a few more notches on "Miss Me," as, once again, the spectators sang it word for word: "I said tell me what's really going on/ Drizzy back up in this thing/ I'm ready, what's happening/ Gon' for surgery, but now I'm back again/ I'm bout my paper like a muthf---ing scratch and win/ World Series attitude, champagne bottle life, nothing ever changes/ So tonight is like tomorrow night/ I will have a model wife, your b---- is as hot as ice."
Drake's NYC show ended about as strong as the Cincinnati Reds' division-clinching run, as he hit a trifecta of hits with "Fancy," "Find Your Love" and "Over."
Were you at Drake's concert? Share your reviews in the comments!