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Drake delights fans in sold-out show at First Niagara Center

I have to confess a dislike for Drake from the get-go. I’ve never connected with him in the past, through a recording or a performance. I’ve made that fact a matter of record.

So how to review his sold-out show Friday in First Niagara Center? Seems like that dislike would be a serious handicap.

I was hoping for enlightenment. What I got was professionalism.

Drake appeared to make the full house feel like he’d showed up just for them, motivated by a pure and true love that made skipping over Buffalo an option that was never on the table. That was enough for the assembled, particularly with the added bonus of sometimes sparring partner Future, with trap grooves in tow.

What we got during Friday’s “Summer Sixteen” tour stop was a lot of Drake running around the front of the stage and gesticulating wildly, while what sounded like a drummer labored away in the shadows, and a DJ did his thing without the benefit of a spotlight. It was all about Drake. And that’s the way the crowd seemed to like it.

There was also an audiovisual spectacle that did exactly what it was supposed to do – take attention away from the lack of musical activity being generated from the stage.

It might not be the case for every one in attendance, but for me, the entirety of the first act of Drake’s set – opener “Summer Sixteen,” the somewhat disingenuous but rabidly received “Started From the Bottom,” among them – was nothing but a warm-up for his YouTube sensation, “Hotline Bling,” the ear worm of the still-young century, and a tune that the KeyCenter crowd sang along with, line-by-line.

“Hotline Bling” is the perfect Drake song – dumb. Incredibly catchy, mildly arrogant in tone, and peppered with slang that sounds awesome today, and will sound absurd in 10 years. It’s the “Who Let the Dogs Out” of its generation, but no one wants to admit it, because they’re having too much fun partying to it, and let’s face it, music is probably not going to be a game-changing force in their lives anyway.

One can hope, but the odds are against it.

Drake is incredibly adept at turning his arena shows into video shoots, where you feel like you’ve been handpicked to star in one of his celebrations of himself. No harm in that.

Though it struck me as what happens when you hand the control of the streaming device to an attention-deficit happy teenager on a long car ride, Drake’s bang-bang-bang, tune-tune-tune mixtape of a show seemed to delight the packed house with its rapidfire medley-like nature. “U With Me,” “Headlines,” “Trophies,” “Worst Behavior”– one man’s caffeinated karaoke is another man’s dream set list.

Drake owned the joint, it cannot be denied.

Future is an interesting doppelgänger for Drake. He is more steamy nightclub than arena populated by horny teenagers.

But the mix is where the true swank comes from. Trap meets Rap, and ends up being pretty close to the same thing, in the end. Really, it’s only a question of where you put the emphasis in the beat, anyway. Trap favors heaviness on the 1 and the 2, with rests on the 3 and 4 of each measure. Rap tends to be funkier, sometimes emphasizing the “ands” of each beat.

You see the trouble I’m having here, right?

I need to break it down to the music itself, what little more of it there is, to find out why Drake (and Future) are so loved. Because the music itself is not making that clear to me.

Regardless, the full house was all lit up for Drake. He could do no wrong. And, if you loved him going in, you loved him going out, too.

Me? I’m still trying. Respect for bringing a lengthy, visually thrilling and totally pro show to our town, though. I’ll keep listening.


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