Sunday, June 20, 2010

Concert Review: Drake at Theater of the Living Arts in Philly

When I first saw that Drake was coming to perform at The Fillmore at Theater of The Living Arts (TLA) in Philly, there was no hesitation in buying tickets. I know you're probably thinking you've been jocking Drake since So Far Gone dropped, why wouldn't you buy tickets to see him if it was less than an hour away? Hear me out...

Having already seen him in concert about two months at Penn State, there was most likely going to be little or no set list changes and considering tickets sold out on Live Nation in less than a half hour, I'd have to StubHub the tickets. Obstacles aside, the clear upside to seeing him at TLA was that it would be a much smaller venue than Bryce Jordan Center and his album would be coming out the day before the concert on June 15th. After weighing the pros/cons for oh I dunno, the better part of a minute, I found tickets on StubHub for only $10 each than originally listed...sold!

Fast forward to the night of the concert, when I got off work at 6 pm an hour away from the concert for an 8 pm show. With the planning of an insurance agent, all possible risks for getting to the concert were accounted for well in advance like traffic, parking, the person you're going with taking forever to get ready (A+ job on that by the way TK, I was impressed). Even with a trip to Subway and a half hour journey to pick up the partner in crime, I was parked three blocks away from TLA (for only $7 which is good for South Street) and walking into the venue by 8:30 pm as the opening act was finishing up their set. Fortunately I had already seen K-OS and the Lights, so I didn't feel like it was the end of the world.

The first thing I immediately noticed was the old school theater-like setup of TLA, which was throwback as hell, but really really cool. I appreciated the multi-bars (one upstairs, one down), balcony seating with chairs and general wide openness of the venue despite only being able to hold a capacity of 810 people. I was anticipating a much smaller, jam packed concert experience, only to find out that even though I walked in about 45 mins before Drake came on, I was still able to get within maybe 15 feet of the stage (see below).
Unfortunately, being under 6 feet tall was a serious visual detriment to where I was standing in the pit, so there was a lot of going back and forth trying to decide whether it would be better to be closer and off center with the view slightly obstructed or about 30 feet farther from the stage, but with a straight on view and lots more personal space. The answer to that ended up being to start out up close and move back after a few songs, which ended up being a great decision because the view from 50 feet away, unobstructed was a lot better.

As 9:30 pm rolled around, the crowd was chalked full of energy and anticipation, so much so that after every song the DJ was playing before Drake's set, everyone had their cameras up ready for his entrance on stage. Never have I seen so many people at a show so eager to record an artist's every move on stage. It was alarming and incredibly clear just how big Drake has become and how much concertgoers (me included) value seeing him perform live. It's one thing to want to go see a artist and pay attention to their every move, it's another to want to capture every minute of an experience so that you can take it home and enjoy it again. Needless to say, I was not in the minority when trying to record bits an pieces to share.

In what ended up being my favorite part of the concert, Drake came out to his soon to be bonus track on Thank Me Later, 9 AM in Dallas. In the freestyle/song, Drake yells, "people say that old Drake we started to miss it,
but they need to be a little more specific, man is this what y’all want?
". The answer to that (emphatically) is YES!, it's these cohesive, transparent trains-of-thought turned creative, well delivered freestyles that endear you to much of your fan base. "These are my one St. Thomas flows...

Pretty cool how he cuts it off mid-verse and skips to "what if I don’t really do the numbers they predict" and ends with "I'll still be one of the greatest n**** I don't give a sh**". Whatever apprehension he had toward his June 15th debut album has clearly faded and been replaced by the confident swagger that we've come to know and appreciate through his music. Watching that video is living proof of how hype and genuinely excited everyone at TLA that night were to see Drizzy perform. And throughout the night, the energy didn't waiver a bit, even through the ballads, song after song was well received.

Soon after the intro, he took us on a quick So Far Gone tour where he hit on my personal favorite track, hands down, of all time, November 18th (still get goosebumps every time I watch this). Just somethin' about the proximity to DJ Screw and mixing screwed up Rap verses with R&B is incredibly fresh in what turned out to be a successful attempt to keyhole my musical tastes all in one track.

Appreciated his effort on this particular rendition of my favorite track, paying more attention to the harmony on the R&B verses and throwin' up his Philly set rather than repping Houston like he does on the original. Drake if you or anybody in your camp (Oliver, Niko, 40) ever reads this, you'd make this fan/pusher of your music happy if you did another screwed track/DJ Screw sample in the future. More people need to sample the legendary DJ Screw and none have pulled it off as well as you...#justsayin.

Going into the night I predicted that he would include some sort of special guest onstage that he has worked with. Seeing that Philly is a big city, I figured he could find a way to at least swing a Nicki Minaj or Trey Songz for a few tracks since the Jay-Z's and Kanye's were probably a little too ambitious. What we ended up getting was somewhere in between with Cash Money's own Baby showing up for Money to Blow and I'm Still Fly. Apologies for the lighting being a little intense on the video, but the audio is clear...

Similar to the first show, everyone in the crowd was singing word for word most of his older material and really digging all his cameo verses. After the tour around his mixtape, he slowed it down a bit and similar to the first show I saw, he picked out a beautiful woman in the crowd and slow danced with her. This time though, he gave a shout out to a few of his favorite upcoming artists (J Cole, Kid Cudi, Wale, Wiz Khalifa) and sent a sincere heartfelt thank you to the special girl you brought on stage before kissing her on both cheeks, then forehead, only to leave her hangin' on the last kiss?! Not gonna lie at first I thought you left her with an eskimo kiss, which woulda been equally as pimp...haha.

I was also glad to find out she was 19 years old, especially after seeing Drake freak out onstage because she looked a little young. Like he said, "that's a year past being legal" so permission was given to film away...haha.

As usual, curfew is 11 pm, so seeing that it was approaching 10:45PM and he hadn't yet played Over, the last song was no surprise. Tell you what, a whole lot of people were lukewarm of Over, but I promise, if you see it in concert, the energy Drake puts into absolutely rocking it out personally made me like the track that much more. As much as I want to post the video I took of it below, I feel like I've already posted a ton of videos to go along with my experience, so if you want to see it you can go to my YouTube channel and check it out (Click on the YouTube Videos button on the Wibiya bar at the bottom of this page). I also got a really well done version of his Lust for Life track as well as a clip of Find Your Love, which you should definitely check out.

Overall, I'd give the concert a solid A. It's probably the best Hip Hop concert I've seen to date, which isn't saying much since quality Hip Hop performances are few and far between. Still I don't want to discount how fun it was to watch Drake live the day after his new album dropped. There was a unique coincidence of wants between the crowd and him, with Drake wanting very badly to put on a show we wouldn't forget, matching the crowd's insatiable desire to experience his music firsthand. I've got a lot more opinions to share on Drake as an artist relating to his new album Thank Me Later, but you'll get a longwinded version of that sometime this next week as I finish it.

Do yourself a favor and go and cop Thank Me Later here, here or here. As much media as I share of his, I still feel like I owe it to him to support him in going platinum by buying a physical copy of his album to go along with the two concerts and Drake t-shirt I've invested in. Although he wants you to Thank him Later, go ahead and Thank him Now.


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