Drake @ Resorts World Arena, 26 March 2019

A Ferrari flying high above the crowd. Fireworks displays befitting a bonfire night. A basketball shootout competition offering the chance to win £20,000. It doesn’t particularly sound like your typical gig, but live music is changed and Drake is its innovator, transforming his shows into an experience to remember for his army of devoted fans.

This week the Canadian rapper was at Birmingham’s Resorts World Arena for his Assassinations Vacation Tour. Tickets are priced up to £140 for the tour, which has caused Drizzy to face some criticism after not selling out  all of the venues across the UK; but it soon became clear what people were paying for. It was an evening filled with stunning stage spectacles and a set of around 40 (yes, 40!) hits from his catalogue of albums and mixtape.

The night opened in an unexpected way; the sound of Quincy Jones’ ‘Soul Bossa Nova,’ better known as the Austin Powers theme tune, signalled the arrival of Drake who stepped onto a huge rectangular stage positioned in the middle of the crowd. Partially hidden behind a netted mesh type veil, which was hanging from the ceiling.  Drake was revealed when the veil suddenly dropped which started the crowd to go crazy for new track ‘Mob Ties’ and favourite ‘Started from The Bottom.’

Drake’s visit to the Second City comes on the back of his 25 track 2018 album Scorpion and while the crowd was treated to a collection of his music, the new record featured heavily throughout.  “It feels it’s me here with all my friends and family here in Birmingham” Drake declared before launching into ‘Know Yourself’ and ‘Elevate.’ Bouncing from corner to corner with incredible energy. As Drake moved an immserve stage floor changed with each song, from an iPhone screen to a swimming pool the stage movement was mirrored as thousands of lights from mobile phones created an illuminated backdrop.

‘Gyalchester,’ ‘Crew Love,’ ‘HYFR’ and ‘Headlines’ formed a medley of tracks showcasing Champagne Papi’s glowing 10 year career before he disappeared through the stage for a short little break.  With a giant Union Jack appearing on the stage, a clear display of Drake’s love affair with all things British, support act Tory Lanez returned with ‘Talk To Me’ and ‘Luv.’  Much to the delight of Dizzy’s crowd he soon returned to “slow it down” and share some personal stories with the likes of ‘That’s How You Feel’ and ‘Passionfruit.’ With “I will give you everything I’ve got Birmingham. I love you for real” the mood soon ramped back up. A pandemonium erupted as ‘Controlla,’ ‘Hotline Bling’ and ‘Nice For What’ played.

In a remarkable display of lasers, the stage was converted into a basketball court!  A fan, surrounded by Drake’s six talented dancers, was set the task of landing three balls from different distances to win prizes up to £20,000. Despite the support of his heir, the fan only netted third prize of £250, but it provided some in-show entertainment for the 16,000 fans who were watching on.

Hopes of collaborator and Walsall born Jorja Smith making an appearance didn’t come to fruition, but Drake made up for it by welcoming an extra special guest to the stage in form of grime artist Giggs. The South Londoner was beaming as they powered through the boisterous ‘KMT’ from the 2017 release More Life, certainly the highlight of the evenings affairs.

‘Nonstop’ and ‘I’m Upset’ brought the set to a close before an incredible Guy Fawkes inspired final of ‘God’s Plan’ came with the promise of new music and a potential return in 2020.

Bring it on.  We can’t wait to see what incredible stage show Drake and his team have in store for next year.

Reviewer: Tom Oakley

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