Near the end of Thursday night’s jam-packed show at Save Mart Center, Drake stopped to tell Fresno that the show was one of the best nights of his professional career. The crowd, of course, went nuts.
Drake probably says that to all the cities, but it doesn’t really matter. The scene goes to illustrate the most overwhelming fact about Drake’s Fresno debut — he had the crowd eating out of his hand at every turn.
That’s why I almost hesitate to ask this, because I’m sure I already know the answer: Fresno, what did you think of Drake? Judging by the reactions from the crowd, I’m thinking you loved him. But, how about telling us more? What did you love about the show? What did you think of the setlist? About Drake’s demeanor on stage?
Chime in on those and anything else you like. While you think about it, read over my thoughts below and peruse a few more pics from The Bee’s Craig Kohlruss (above and the next two) and some pics and vids from me.
UPDATE: Added some videos below. You can also now download a Drake wallpaper from fresnobee.com. Finally, anybody fuming mad about Drake not showing up for a supposed afterparty at Rome Nightclub?
It’s been said before that Drake could be the next Jay-Z. He’s got a cool confidence about him and a knack for producing hit after hit after hit while still keeping some credibility with more hard-nosed hip-hop fans. The comparison stuck with me Thursday night during Drake’s feverish, jam-packed Fresno debut at Save Mart Center.
The show, in a number of ways, was almost like a junior version of Jay-Z’s 2009 stop at Save Mart Center. Both were packed with music — Drake fit a lot of hits into his 90 minutes set. Both rappers were backed by a live band — Drake’s five-piece was an impressive surprise. Both rappers were adored by fans — though Drake definitely edged out Hov in the squealing-women category.
Drake even spent a portion of the show calling out audience members and saying things like “I see you” or thanking them for coming. Jay-Z did the same thing. He just didn’t waste as much time doing it.
Which gets us to the meat of all this: Drake’s show, while certainly good, could use some tightening. He spent far too long shouting out sections of the audience and pointing out fans. That’s just my take, of course. Given the response, I think the screaming, predominantly-female crowd would have been happy if Drake just talked to them for an hour about their clothes and their signs adorned by his catchphrases. Music be damned.
There was another moment where Drake stopped what he was doing and rapped over a song by his boss Lil Wayne. It seemed an amateur moment for a non-amateur guy, a guy who happens to be sitting on top of the rap world right now and whose current sold-out-almost-everywhere tour is a testament to his status as a budding rap king.
It’s rare that we get an artist in Fresno at the pinnacle of their career — and Drake is probably the biggest star in music right now not named Adele.
Thus the crowd reacted accordingly. People rapped along to every word, even the album cuts and new songs that are only on the Internet. Women shouted out that they loved him. One even threw her bra (with her phone number written on it) right into his hand.
When Drake played the Cool Guy role, he was at his best. The start of the show, for instance, was electrifying. He was full of energy, bouncing around stage, relentlessly cycling through five songs in about 10 minutes. Later, he would coo at the crowd in between songs, showing off that ever-present swagger that’s elevated him to heartthrob status.
The big question for me heading into Thursday’s night show was whether Drake had the charisma and charm in person that he has on his records, and also if he had that intangible star power that so many hip-hop artists seem to lack. Jay-Z has it. Drake, well, he’s almost there. But for a 25-year-old, with only two albums under his belt, he’s getting mighty close.
OPENING ACTS: A$AP ROCKY AND KENDRICK LAMAR
To be 100% honest, I was most excited and most curious about A$AP Rocky and Kendrick Lamar heading into Thursday’s show. Both are on-the-rise rap stars, both aren’t on-the-radio-all-the-time guys like Drake is. And both aren’t who you expect to see in a big arena.
Being the opening act at an arena show is tough. Especially for rappers. It’s hard to make the performance anything except for squashed and sterile.
Rocky (above) found a way to bring a lot of energy to his brief performance. The rattling bass of his songs didn’t hurt. He reminded of an early ’90s gangster rapper in his dress, but his demeanor was different. He was quite thankful for the big crowd.
Kendrick Lamar — who just signed with Dr. Dre’s Aftermath label — didn’t fare as well. He got lost a little bit on the big stage. He had some good songs, but I couldn’t help but think he’d be great to see in a place like Fulton 55 where he could build a better rapport with the crowd.
Sounds off in the comments about Drake, A$AP Rocky and Kendrick Lamar. Go!