Allphones Arena, Wednesday 25 February, 2015
It’s no happy accident that Drake is considered one of, if not the best rapper alive. Six years on from his breakout mixtape, ‘So Far Gone’, Drake is now the proud owner of an entire catalogue of brilliant albums, worldwide hits, and bar after bar of classic rhymes. His openness to express himself through power raps, and equally through slower, more heartfelt songs, has gradually earned him a rabid fan base of millions. All this would mean nothing however, if the man couldn’t perform. As a firm believer that many fans are won and lost at live shows, I had very high expectations. Suffice to say, these expectations were met and then some. Drake absolutely, positively, killed it. In fact, killed it could be considered underselling; Drake smashed and annihilated it into oblivion.
Having never been to Australia before, his Sydney faithful were understandably hungry to witness their deity in the flesh; and what a show they witnessed. Entering with the celebratory anthem, ‘Trophies’, by the Young Money crew, the sold out, Allphones Arena crowd all the way lost all semblance of sanity they once had. Honestly, it’s a miracle the arena didn’t shake down to its foundations. This energy, coupled with the deafening roar of 21,000 plus attendees would become a recurring theme throughout the show.
It’s first reoccurrence would just so happen to be upon the very next song, when the unmistakable intro to, ‘Headlines’, blasted through the speakers. Drake, confidently strutting around the stage hit every – single – beat – without fail, as the audience collectively attempted to do the same – extremely admirably so. Enough can’t be said about this crowd, the atmosphere they created was unbelievable; only pushing Drake further as the night went on.
Drake’s acting background was really evident in the manner he interacted with the audience. Personable, entertaining; he knew exactly what to say and how to say it at every turn, he knew how to amp them up, and he knew what they wanted. Immediately after, ‘Headlines’, he told Sydney that he wanted to take them all the way back, seamlessly transitioning into a medley of tracks from his first album and mixtape, starting with the mega-hit, ‘Over’. Personally, it astonished me how well everyone knew every track, which truly does speak volumes about the relationship Drake has with his fans; the two hysterical girls behind me were, I’m sure just one of countless examples in the arena where fans’ unrelenting loyalty perhaps got the better of them. I mean, even the songs from his first mixtape, something you can’t find in a store, iTunes or Spotify, were celebrated with such passion from the crowd, spitting every word in time with the man himself.
Then, after employing the attendees to sing The Weekend’s section of Drake’s song, ‘Crew Love’, he rolled into a second medley, this time consisting of tracks he’s featured in. “What day is it here in Sydney?” he questioned before rolling into ilovemakonnen’s, ‘Tuesday’. For me, this was one of the highlights of the night, and I wasn’t alone. As I said, he knew what the people wanted. Simultaneously, the capacity crowd went up on a Wednesday, still screaming every lyric like their lives were dependent on it. It was awesome.
The next portion of the show was dedicated to Drake’s slower songs, showcasing those vocals he breaks out from time to time. Without sounding pessimistic, I really didn’t expect him to be so good live, he sounded just as he does on the records, unassisted by autotune or enhancement, he really just sung his heart out, while winning those of the crowd if he hadn’t already. Flames and fireworks going off right behind him, the familiar sound of Rihanna became apparent. ‘Take Care’, had begun. The audience liked that. They liked that a lot. Going into raptures, they witnessed greatness prove why he belongs in the position he’s attained.
Almost symbolically, a chairlift then carried Drake above everyone in attendance, down to a small stage right in the middle of the standing area. As if those fans needed another reason to lose their minds, Drake leant down singing, ‘Hold on we’re going home’, looking right into their eyes, enchanting some females in attendance into throwing their underwear at him, which he happily took in his stride. The applause he was receiving was unlike anything I’ve ever seen, perhaps even unlike anything he’s seen, prompting him to announce, “F*** it, I’m not going home”. This was not nearly the first time he praised the audience either, it was getting to the point where after every couple of songs, he would have to stop in amazement at the reception Sydney was throwing his way.
After being lifted back to the main stage, we’d reached the final stretch. Finished with the slow jams, it was abundantly clear Drake was gonna go out with a bang. Starting with a duet with support act, 2 Chainz, he eventually reached his brand new track, ‘Energy’, off his Beyonce-esque unannounced new album, “If You’re Reading This it’s Too Late”. Drake rhymed with a passion, flare and fire, unrivalled anywhere in the world today, and even as he was more than obviously dripping with sweat, his flow never once faltered, feeding off the raw energy of his fans. Even more ridiculously still, the crowd somehow, someway, STILL kept up with him, at times even finishing his bars for him. He stood there altogether and I truly believe, honestly bewildered, questioning how everyone knew all the lyrics for a song he released only a week earlier. It was becoming very apparent that he wasn’t offering the, “You’re the best, Sydney!” lines as a formality anymore, the man genuinely was in shock to what he was experiencing.
After sending the whole squad 0-100, real quick, it was time for the big finale, ‘Started From the Bottom’. Knowing that this was their last chance, everyone sung along with everything they had in them, as if they hadn’t been all night regardless. Upon its completion, Drake was extended a deafening applause. He was floored, literally falling to his knees, he stared into the arena, completely and utterly humbled, the cameras revealed his eyes watering. Sydney had earned the man’s tears, and this only further pushed the capacity crowd, reaching noise levels I honest to god have never heard in my life. Spine chillingly, extraordinarily, awe-inspiringly loud, he knelt, wholeheartedly speechless. Gathering himself, he explained he’d never seen anything like this and how ludicrously thankful he was, swearing he’d return to Sydney, “even if it was picked up and moved thirteen hours further away”.
Drake gave everything he had, Wednesday night, and in return was given everything right back. I can only pray that his reunion with Sydney isn’t in another six years, as I, along with everyone else packed into Allphones, wouldn’t miss it for anything.
Thank you, Drake.
Josh Di Matteo