Drake's OVO Fest 2011: The Complex Recap

Drake

The Weeknd were shy, Ross was detached, and Drake was by turns spastic, thankful, easy-going, and playful. After all, Drake used to Aubrey Graham, TV star. He performed. He acted.

Coming onto the stage to the “don’t fuck with me” refrain from “Dreams Money Can By” Drake immediately dialed up the energy by launching into “Up All Night,” which soon transitioned into “Forever.” By rushing through a few songs, he set the tone for the rest of the show: Tonight would be a highlight reel for someone still in their prime.

He was manic energy, feeling his own music and feeding off the palpable hometown pride. The word “Toronto” got mentioned far more times within the Molson Canadian Amphitheater than it does on Thank Me Later.

Drake’s highlight reel would not be without his friends, mentors, and sources of inspiration, meaning J. Cole, Nas, Lil Wayne, and Stevie Wonder all had a place at OVO. Cole joined Drake for a rendition of “In the Morning” that had more to do with swagger than sex, locker-room boasting rather than actual lovemaking.

Nas joined the proceedings right after for “Made You Look” and “If I Ruled the World.” From there Drake culled verses from guest appearances, settling into a calm pocket before launching into “Marvin’s Room,” the song that might be his best work to date. During the instrumental intro, he looked skyward, as if in prayer. Then the staticky voice of the woman that introduces the track boomed from the speakers like god. If Drake is penitent before anyone, it’s women.

“Lately I do bitches the meanest” is mostly posturing, as evidenced by the too-long crowd interaction that came after “Fancy.” Armed with a pair of binoculars, Drake looked into the audience and praised approximately half of all the women in attendance. This took a while.

For memorable moments, Stevie Wonder's six-song set takes top prize. Watching Drake kneel beside him as Wonder played made for an indelible image. Wonder’s extended version of “Ribbon in the Sky” was transcendent; the man’s voice has lost none of its beauty.

When Wayne appeared, the audience went batshit. By far his arrival provoked the loudest response. For a show where Stevie Wonder showed up unannounced, that’s something. It also speaks to how short some listeners' sense of history is. Still, Wayne’s arrival made it possible for a full performance of “I’m On One.” No sign of DJ Khaled, though.

Drake left the stage and "Headlines" came through the amphitheater's soundsystem. Given the strength of Drake's 2011 output, it wouldn't be much of a gamble to plan on attending 2012's third-annual OVO Fest.

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