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Searching for truth at the Drake concert

Drake could have told the crowd his uncle works for Nintendo, and we’d believe him.

During the closing moments of Drake’s triumphant first-of-three Melbourne performances, the Canadian pop-rap superstar revealed his holiday plans: returning home to Toronto to record his next album. Not only that, but he’ll specifically have Melbourne fans in mind during its creation. A mawkish, rank platitude – one of countless on the night. And we loved it. We believed it.

From the moment Aubrey Drake Graham elevated onto centre stage – in Terminator pose, unlike the spring-loaded Michael Jackson leap adopted by Bieber – there wasn’t so much as a punch pulled. Except for his signature dance move, where Drake winds back an imaginary haymaker to rain overhead the denizens of VIP, before retracting his fist in meditative restraint. It was a night of show and tell. Show: a setlist stacked with hits. Tell: His appreciation for Melbourne. The show made the tell feel sincere. ‘Trophies’, a song vaunted prior to release to be Drake’s biggest hit courtesy of a beat from the then-untouchable Hit-Boy, landed second in the setlist. It’s grown to be my favourite Drake song. Sheer bombast got the benefit of pyrotechnics, sparks flying during the stuttering breakdown.                                                                        

Drake’s weak point in recent years has been a visual identity. The most striking aspect of the Boy Meets World tour production arrived, fittingly, during ‘Hotline Bling’, as a grid of luminescent orbs yo-yoed down from the ceiling, lit in the hues of the song’s video (Drake’s last, to date). A song about phones, an almost Pavlovian crowd response to use their phone to capture the spectacle. And it was a spectacular use of vertical space.

The setlist crafted a neat narrative, opening with impactful hits ‘Started From The Bottom’, and Take Care classics ‘Headlines’ and ‘HYFR’. Stamping an ownership on the era of rap, a rapid-fire medley of Drake’s guest bars on other rappers’ hits: ‘Blessings’, ‘Versace’, ‘Pop That’, and more. Later, a tryptic of Rihanna collaborations, with ‘Take Care’ frustratingly dismissed after the opening instrumental.

More Life hits shaped the third act, bookending the inflation of a centre stage globe. This was Drake’s world. We were part of it. He could see us. He pointed at us, a lot. It was devastatingly effective. He took it to another level, pointing out the attire of individuals in the crowd (reportedly, the following night saw Drake agree with the sentiment of a ‘FREE MEEK MILL’ t-shirt).

Before launching into ‘Know Yourself’, Drake addressed the crowd with the temperament of a dorky Canadian dad who might just threaten to turn his inflatable globe back to Winnipeg. “We’re going to do something that’s probably never been done in this building before,” he said, in a venue that has hosted countless concerts over the decades, before explaining the concept of a circle pit. If Drake believes it hasn’t been done before here, we believe it. If Drake believes that all is right with the world because he sees a diverse crowd tonight, we believe it. It was an escape, and that’s what we were here for.