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Concert Reviews:
Drake show more club than concert at DTE

for Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Thursday, May 31, 2012

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- As its title suggests, Drake envisions his Club Paradise Tour as more of a night out than a concert.

The concept, with its six opening acts, certainly carried enough appeal to nearly sell out Wednesday's (May 30) show at the DTE Energy Music Theatre. But throughout his 90-minute headline set, Drake himself looked like he would have been more comfortable sitting behind a champagne bucket in the VIP booth at some nightspot rather than in the vaunted position of multi-platinum star of the show.

The Toronto-born rapper and singer has not yet been able to translate his undeniable charisma and infectious exuberance into a powerful onstage persona. On Wednesday he was an awkwardly solitary presence on his own stage, dwarfed by a formidable display of lights, visual effects and occasional pyrotechnics. More emcee than MC, Drake's best move was striding to a back riser to grab a drink between songs, and he was more prone to skipping around the stage, pantomiming to recorded vocals like a participant in the party rather than commanding the crowd's attention as an energetic focus.

He was generally schooled by the various support players who joined him onstage -- 2 Chainz ("No Lie"), Wacka Flocka Flame ("Round of Applause"), Meek Mill ("Amen") and French Montana ("Shot Caller," "Stay Scheming"), each of whom burst forth with a forcefulness Drake couldn't match. And his appropriation of Jay-Z's crowd shout-outs, noting specific fans by what they're wearing, was a lengthy, momentum-killing speed bump late in the show.

That's not to say that everything Drake did fell flat. Playing mostly partial versions of some two dozen songs -- and favoring his sophomore album, 2011's "Take Care" -- Drake opened strong with "Lord Knows," "Underground King" and "I'm On One," though "Over" was cut maddeningly short. And later on, he delivered "Take Care's" chilled-out title track with genuine passion, accented by fireworks and video projections.

But even though he took a swipe at DTE's 11 p.m. curfew, Drake rushed the last part of his set -- including songs such as "Over My Dead Body," "Make Me Proud," "HYFR," "The Motto" and "Headlines" -- in order to avoid a fine.

In just three years Drake has amassed a sturdy body of material that speaks to a strong work ethic and undeniable creativity. It may one day grow into galvanizing stage show, but on Wednesday it felt like just another night in the club.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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