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Concert Reviews:
Rapper Drake is still perfecting his craft

of the Oakland Press

Posted: Wednesday, October 20, 2010

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DETROIT -- As he moved into the home stretch of his concert Tuesday night (Oct. 19) at the Fox Theatre, Canadian rapper Drake spit that "all this (stuff) is new to me/I'm learning every day."

And there's apparently still a lot more to learn.

Unlike his limber late April appearance at the Meadow Brook Music Festival, Drake's 24-song, 90-minute performance at the sold-out Fox showed that while the 23-year-old onetime TV star has quickly stacked up a pile of hits and impressive guest appearances, he's still developing as a live act. Though it had its moments of aggressive abandon, the show lacked any real flow and fell victim to too many set-padding conceits, making for a night that felt longer than it really was -- and not in the right way.

The good? A strong opening with the bonus track "9 A.M. in Dallas," "Forever" from the "More Than a Game" soundtrack -- dashing hopes that Eminem, who's also on the track, would make a cameo at the Fox -- "Up All Night" and "Show Me a Good Time." Drake (real name Aubrey Drake Graham) and his six-piece band also rocked through "Every Girl" and "BedRock" from the "We Are Young Money Compilation," and the late-show "Say Something" picked up a bit of the momentum that had faltered by then.

The educated and articulate Drake was also clearly getting more comfortable in his thug guise on Tuesday, the liberal profanities and remarks about sex and drugs flowing a bit more naturally than they did just six months ago.

Identity, however, remained an issue. Granted, the guy is signed to imprisoned rapper Lil Wayne's Young Money label, but that doesn't mean he was required to dedicate as much time in his own set shouting out to the boss, even taking flip cam footage of the Fox crowd shouting "Free Weezy!" A long tribute section to Aaliyah felt random, while tricks such as pulling a female fan on stage for a slow dance and neck-lick during "Un-thinkable (I'm Ready)" (at least she got a new Blackberry 9100 out of the deal) and ID-ing specific fans from the stage seemed tired, or at least unoriginal.

All of that and oddly truncated version of many of the songs managed to bog down what should have been a triumphant celebration of a career that's come strong out of the blocks. Closing the evening with his hit "Over," Drake reminded the Fox crowd that Detroit is "one of my favorite cities" and added that "I would love to do this again with you sometime."

Hopefully he'll do it better.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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