HOLMDEL, New Jersey — Tuesday night was a true test for Drake, but not even persistent downpours could put a damper on his Club Paradise Tour. Fans in OVO hoodies and neon-colored ponchos braved the rain and filled the outdoor PNC Bank Arts Center to party with Drizzy and his regal lineup of up-and-coming hip-hop kings: French Montana, Meek Mill, 2 Chainz, Waka Flocka Flame and J. Cole.
When Drake finally took the stage at 9:30 p.m. to the tune of "Lord Knows," the amphitheater filled with thunderous applause and female squeals. The OVO general basked in the glow of thousands of iPhone camera flashes though his spirit seemed heavier than usual. Sporting a black R.I.P. shirt, black pants and black Air Jordans, it quickly became clear that the rap star was in mourning. After a nonstop blitz of songs like "Underground Kings," the infectious "I'm on One" and the kinetic "Over," the Toronto MC finally took a break, clutching a bottle of Hennessy that he would later pour out in memory of his friend and Crooks & Castles marketing director Christopher "Lewds" Natalio, who died
href="http://www.ballerstatus.com/2012/06/04/crooks-castles-marketing-director-chris-lewds-passes/" target="_blank">earlier this month
target="_blank">earlier this month. "I hope you rest in paradise," Drake said before tipping the bottle and spilling out his liquor, dedicating what he says was the most important song of the night to his fallen friend.
The familiar bass stabs of "Crew Love" blasted through the stage speakers as the club patrons bounced up and down. The crowd sung along to every word in the Weeknd's opening verse, in which he ironically proclaims, "This ain't a f---in' sing-along."
It would be one of the many magical moments that Club Paradise provided. For an hour and a half, Drake dealt out songs from both his 2010 debut, Thank Me Later, and his platinum sophomore effort, Take Care.
Though Drizzy's name appears at the top of the marquee, the CP Tour is no one-man show. During his set, Drake made room on the main stage for
2 Chainz, who came out and performed his new single "No Lie," and Meek Mill, who rocked "Amen" and "I'ma Boss." French Montana moseyed out to the beat of his hit single "Shot Caller," and then he and Drizzy performed "Stay Schemin' " or "the real n---a anthem," as they described it. The Young Money soldier also made way for dancehall star Mavado, who treated the fans to his 2009 reggae favorite "So Special."
Between every few songs Drake would stop to address the crowd and play up his Club Paradise fantasy, telling a narrative that consisted of booze, bad women and good music. Fireworks shot across the stage when he danced around to "Take Care," and smoke filled the arena when he rocked out to "The Motto." It was clearly the biggest party in town.
After closing with Take Care's lead single, "Headlines," Drake bid adieu to his Jersey fans, promising them that he'd be back soon, maybe next time with friends Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj, he teased. Sounds like an amazing idea. Let's just hope that when the YMCMB dream tour does roll into town the rain lets up.
What's your favorite Drake performance? Let us know in the comments!