NEW YORK (AP) – It’s easy to forget how many hits Drake has created in his nearly 15-year music career. But he presented a powerful memory with an intimate concert at Harlem’s Apollo Theater on Saturday, his first-ever show at that legendary venue.
During the performance, the four-time Grammy winner teased that new music could be on the way despite releasing two albums last year.
“I’ve thought about a lot of things in life, but at this moment none of those things stop making music for you,” Drake told the delighted crowd. “I hope I can evoke some more emotion for you, maybe this year – I might get bored and do another one.”
On the first night of two Apollo weekend shows presented by SiriusXM, the 36-year-old ripped through songs at breakneck speed — most with just a verse and chorus — satisfying fans of day one with fan-favorite, deep non-radio Cuts as well as those only familiar with his #1 hits. The recorded performances will be broadcast on Drake’s SiriusXM Sound 42 channel in the coming weeks.
Noting that this was his first show in about five years and later saying, “I’m going to be traveling a lot this year,” Spotify’s most-streamed artist in the US told his captivated audience last year that the show is about gratitude go.
“I wanted to make this a show about gratitude,” said Drake. “This is a little story we’ve put together: my deep love for my family, for my dear friends and for each and every one of you who have been supporting me for a long time.”
Drake donned cornrows while wearing baggy jeans and a blue and yellow Jimmy Brooks basketball jersey – a nod to his acting days on teen drama series Degrassi – Drake opened the performance with “Over My Dead Body” as celebrity guests as Justin and Hailey Bieber, former NBA MVP and current Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant, NFL star Odell Beckham Jr., rappers A$AP Ferg and A Boogie wit da Hoodie watched.
Drake sat on a bed to the right of the stage modeled after his bedroom in his mother’s basement in Toronto, where he says he wrote songs, many of his downtempo B-side hits like “Wu-Tang Forever” and ” Trust” belted out Issues”, “Practice” and “Feel No Ways”.
He also sang his most popular deep cut, “Marvin’s Room,” as the standing room-only audience joined him word for word before moving on to his hook of Timbaland’s “Say Something” during the “Marvin’s Room” beat went on.
As the bedroom set dimmed and the lights shifted to the left side of the stage, revealing a meeting room, Drake donned a black leather hoodie with his OVO owl symbol on it. The rapper stood in front of a performer who played a record label exec, who skeptically remarked that it was “interesting” that he was a rapper from Canada, before saying, “Okay, let’s see what you got.” (Drake later reminded the crowd how all the major record labels in New York had passed it on.)
Beginning with “Best I Ever Had,” the R&B hit that launched his career, he continued his musical journey with early Young Money hits like Headlines, “HYFR,” “Started From the Bottom” and “I’ m Auf eins.” Also his more danceable albums like “Massive” from last year’s project “Honestly, Nevermind” as well as “Hold On, We’re Going Home”, “One Dance”, “Passionfruit” and “In Meine Feelings.”
The final leg of the 90-minute set began with a surprise performance by popular early 2000s Harlem rap collective The Diplomats, with Drake wearing Cam’ron’s signature pink hoodie and headband. He was then joined by 21 Savage to perform songs like “Rich Flex,” “Spin Bout You,” and “Knife Talk” from their collaborative project, Her Loss, which was released in November.
The longtime slogan for the Apollo is “Where Stars are Born and Legends are Made!” So it was either strategic or accidental that he ended the show with Legend. While it may be too early to give him the legendary moniker borne by Apollo Walk of Fame icons such as Michael Jackson, Prince, Aretha Franklin and James Brown, he left no doubt that he was well on his way is.
Follow Associated Press entertainment journalist Gary Gerard Hamilton at: @GaryGHamilton on all his social media platforms.