Drake's irresistibly corny power shines bright at Xcel with Future

Hip-hop megastar Drake performing at Xcel Energy Center on July 24, 2016.

Hip-hop megastar Drake performing at Xcel Energy Center on July 24, 2016.

White bulbs hung from the rafters in the packed St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center during Drake and Future’s Summer Sixteen tour stop Sunday.

Drake and Future

Xcel Energy Center

During Drake’s portions of the show, the bulbs would move and illuminate in Drake-feeling colors. Warm blues and purples were the go-to, but the trademark “Hotline Bling” mellow pink appeared. Mango, tasty-looking oranges, and tawny yellows also made appearances. The colors were metaphors for Drake's feelings, and man, the megastar rapper is not shy about sharing exactly how he feels. 

The floating glowing bulbs, though, wouldn't change colors or make a large six in the sky until later in Drake’s set. The show began with the emotionally charged tone of revenge -- the word plastered across the main stage screen -- as Drake emerged into view up through the ground and performed “Summer Sixteen." The next song was “Still Here” from Views, his chart-dominating album from April, followed by “Started From the Bottom” from Nothing was the Same, from a couple LPs back. 

Though Drake had not reached a No. 1 hit until this year with “One Dance,” big-time hits dot his entire discography. Drake’s music can be poignant and almost embarrassingly honest, and always incohesive. Views has 10 or 12 really great songs packed into a wayward, unnecessarily long 20-song excursion through all of Drake’s feelings at the moment. The Summer Sixteen concert followed pattern. The songs ranged from all over Drake’s career and the emotional tone shifted on a dime. 

The always-dexterous Drake occupies so many roles in hip-hop, R&B, and even dancehall. On Sunday, he held his own with the more hard-rapping Future, but also pulled off straight ballad singing. Many times, like during verses for “9” or “Legend,” Drake would start singing where he recorded rapping. His immense talent explains his crossover appeal. It also speaks to his growing over-share corniness.

Drake would go from bouncing around during an impressive medley of hits, including turn-up turns in “0 to 100” and “Versace,” while fireworks and smoke shot into the sky. Next, the screen behind him blacked out as smoke billowed around a single spotlight. He’d then dive into an emotional song like “Child's Play,” sing-rapping the verses. Drake stalked the stage, pointing at the crowd while pouring out observations on his and other's sexual and relationship habits.  

Drake on Sunday at St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center

Drake on Sunday at St. Paul's Xcel Energy Center

After the floating feeling balls were introduced, they accompanied Drake throughout. Purple was the primary color used, though Prince was never mentioned. During “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” Drake got into a little compartment, like a metallic hot-air balloon with no balloon, and was hoisted about as he sang down, looking deeply into the crowd. When his feet were planted on the stage, he didn't move around too much. He likes to do this running-man dance, staying super-hyped but largely stationary. It's strangely a part of his cool charisma. 

Eventually, Future emerged the same way, coming up through the ground. Drake gave him a quick dap and then descended out of sight. Future started things with his featured verse from A$ap Ferg’s “New Level.” The energy ratcheted right up.

Future feels the feelings too, but only the extremely passionate ones that push through all the codeine and promethazine under which he buries everything. Those emotions are revealing and confessional, dealing with his children and past relationships and regrets, but they're cathartic, not melancholic. Future lets out his thoughts and feelings with a holler and a bang, not like Drake's sweet songs and reggae dancing. 

Future rapped “I Thought it was a Drought,” from DS2, the big screen behind him for the first time cutting to the action on stage. Otherwise the screen had images of nude women in a bathtub or the rose from the EVOL album cover burning as “Low Life” was performed. Drake's moody fireworks and smoke were replaced by flums of fire and backup dancers. 

Future’s music is more explicit and in-your-face than Drake’s, which created a nice palate cleanser before Drake reemerged. Before Future was done for the night, though, came the obvious What A Time portion. What was less obvious was how short it was. It consisted only of “Big Rings” and “Jumpman.” Drake could only be backseated for so long. 

And the fans loved Drake. The show was scheduled to end at 11 p.m., but Drake kept doing the audience pandering thing where he talked about how great Minnesota fans are and how this show may be the best so far (it was night No. 4 of the tour). The crowd responded with deafening cheers. Near the end of the show, Drake randomly asked Future what time it is (Future was not on stage). Drake tells everyone that it is 11:15 and that he will probably be charged $20,000 for staying on stage, referring to a report that he was fined $13,000 for staying too late at the Dallas stop. 

“Fuck it,” Drake yelled out. "Charge it to my card.”

The crowd went wild and he went into “Know Thyself.” He ends the show with “Legend,” singing the chorus like Tony Bennett, as the screen is awash with pastel colors changing and melting into each other. The pastel warmth was cranked up all the way. It's difficult not to chuckle, to not find Drizzy’s pronouncements of love and emotion to the crowd somewhat insincere.

But with the colors swirling behind him and his shrugging, genuine personality, it's hard not to believe he's just a corny, goofy, not-so-self-aware-in-a-good-way, straight-forward, good guy that just wants everyone to feel good and hangout. 

“It's a crazy time we live in,” Drake said as he left, “... care about yourself.”

Notes on the opener: Dvsn is a really good singer. The division symbol was projected on a black curtain behind him in three places. Looking at a division symbol for a while makes you think about divisiveness. Dvsn sang an Aaliyah cover. Drake probably demands all his OVO labelmates to have at least three Aaliyah covers ready at all times. 

Critic’s bias: Drake and Future are so awesome. This seemed like a lot of fun and then it was soooo much fun. 

The crowd: Drake's crossover appeal was apparent in an Xcel crowd featuring fans mainly in their early twenties, late teens. But there were plenty of older folks and people of all races. 

Concerts at big venues are a great time for people to show out. What's interesting is how they do it. The majority of women and girls were dressed in the fashion of the day -- high-waisted shorts, leotard tanks, and jumpsuits.

The dudes, though, the bros, though ... a Drake show is bro prom. Many wore impeccable snapbacks delicately backward, somehow staying atop their head but not all the way on. The basketball jerseys were abundant. Either current jerseys were worn or ironic, old-school jerseys and Toronto Raptors jerseys.

Drake is a guy that clearly loves the early 2000s -- with his big Timbaland boots, baggy jeans, obsession with Aaliyah and Juvenile and general corniness -- but the fad of football and baseball jerseys being commonplace at hip-hop events seems to have stayed in the early aughts. 

Overheard in the crowd: “There are so many thots here.”

Random notebook dump: Drake has given Future two loving shout outs. Furue sits there stone faced each time. Drake is so loving -- someone hug him!