As the crowd filled the LG Arena in Birmingham to watch Canadian rapper Drake midway through the UK leg of his Club Paradise tour, there was a sense of anticipation and excitement. Having previously opened for Jay-Z at the same venue during Summer 2010, he had a lot to live up to now the stage was his entirely.
Having previously headlined at Birmingham’s NIA back in January 2011 on his Light Dreams and Nightmares Tour Drake was clearly ecstatic to be back in the city.
Excitedly yelling Birmingham with emphasis on the ‘ham’ when addressing the audience he joked about us having “the worst weather ever” when fans had umbrellas up to catch his attention.
Performing a strong selection of tracks from mixtapes and both albums 'Thank Me Later' and 'Take Care' Drake commanded attention with impressive ease and ridiculously high energy levels, keeping the momentum throughout.
The set was complete with a powerful band including hair whipping electric guitarist Adrian Axle who played a dazzling solo during 'Take Care', while Drake stood arms outstretched visibly enjoying the euphoria of his track. With the crowd reciting his and Rihanna’s parts pitch and word perfect Drake lifted his top to wipe his forehead prompting frenzied high pitched screams at the flash of his abs.
He slowed the pace completely with smooth renditions of the sombre 'Marvin’s Room', 'Shot for Me' (dedicating it to a ‘Miss Whitney Houston’) and 'Good Ones'. A standout moment was 'Crew Love' where the entire crowd stood harmonising singer The Weeknd’s melodies perfectly in his absence.
The analogies the rapper used to keep the show moving along felt quite insincere and clearly staged in places, such as one in which he described a fan asking him for a photo which he was going to decline but then he thought to himself: ‘Now she want a photo, you already know though’ (ironically a lyric of a song) before leading into club hit The Motto. However insane cheers from the crowd after indicated that they didn’t mind the poor storytelling as he delivered hit after hit to compensate.
At one point he joked with the crowd disseminating any awkward vibes when asking where his real n***as were at. After receiving lacklustre cheers he whispers: “don’t worry you can be white or Asian or Indian, so I’ll ask you again…” to which the entire audience roared with laughter.
Despite the faultless delivery of his material the staging of the show was poorly executed with a flurry of unnecessary blinding lights and a backdrop made up of disjointed changing onscreen visuals. Overall the show lacked the intimacy his previous ones have but his audience seemed thrilled with the entire performance and he was genuinely overjoyed right back.
Moving around the stage with unfaltering confidence, which at times slightly bordered arrogance, the Club Paradise Drake has come a long way from the humble and seemingly unsure artist breaking into the industry which is to be expected noting his success since then. Personally taking the time to thank fans for purchasing a ticket at the show’s close he showed a tiny glimpse of the man and not the performer.