In 2012, R&B superstars don’t come much bigger than a man called Drake. The Canadian rapper has sold out two consecutive nights at Birmingham’s LG Arena and the excitement in the crowd could not be much more obvious.
As the lights go down, the huge screen behind the stage displays a wall of faces, and then there he is, silhouetted with a single spotlight as the screams from the arena reach fever pitch. Lord Knows and Underground Kings set the pace for the night as Drake (Aubrey to his mom) stylishly delivers a barrage of slick rhymes, connecting well with his audience.
Tonight, Drake is backed by an accomplished 5-piece band who help deliver the polished sound he’s become known for. They don’t move from their designated spots, except for his guitarist who gets to share Drake’s limelight once or twice during the set.
Highlights include the stompin’ single Forever which sees a sea of waving hands throughout the venue. It’s impressive to see how many people can sing along with his rhymes word-perfectly, especially considering how quickly he spits lyrics out on occasion.
The last time he played this room, Drake was opening for Jay-Z, but whereas Jay-Z brings the party vibes, Drake is more about laid-back jams with a groove that keep the boys’ heads nodding and the girls’ hips swinging. Personally, I’d choose Jay-Z every time.
After a while, watching what is basically a one man show does become a little monotonous from a visual perspective. Drake walks from one side of the stage to the other and does well to connect with individuals in the audience but, other than the projected visuals behind the stage, there’s not much more to keep your attention. Of course, that doesn’t seem to bother many in tonight’s packed out venue as they dance and grind to every solid beat.
He talks about the after party he’s hosting later that night and teases the girls on the front row, many of whom are being pulled out by security looking like they’re about to pass out. Whether that’s due to being squashed in the crowd or because they’re overcome by Drake’s good looks is up for debate!
As the intro to Headlines fills the room, the volume of screams reaches even higher levels. Drake stands smiling at the lip of the stage as the beat kicks in and the whole arena seems to move to the beats. It’s the perfect ending to an accomplished set and the well-dressed crowd leaves more than satisfied.
Review & photos – Steve Gerrard