Drake
  • Drake
All photos by the Portland Mercury.

If there's a prevailing theme to Toronto rapper Drake's career right now, it's to be found in the title and lyrics from the song "All Me" (found on the Deluxe Edition of his latest album Nothing Was the Same), the chief sentiment of which goes: "Came up, that's all me/stay true, that's all me/no help, that's all me/all me for real."

A typical boastful rap—and hopefully his early benefactor Lil' Wayne doesn't consider it a slap in the chops—but it helps set the tone for his current tour, which stopped at the Moda Center last night. There was no coterie of backup dancers or hype men with him, and what musicians that were there were wearing all black and on a platform sunk into the middle of the large circle that dominated the stage. Otherwise it was almost entirely all Drake. All the better to drink in the squeals of the many teenage girls in blush-inducing outfits, the grunts of their male hip-hop head companions, and the yawps of a gaggle of older folks trying to keep up with the youthful surroundings.

Miguel
  • Miguel

This also meant that his openers—rappers PartyNextDoor and Future, and soul/R&B singer extraordinaire Miguel—were forced to use a small lip of the stage that couldn't have been more than 15 feet wide. Miguel at least found a way to work with the constraints, setting himself, a drummer, and a keyboard player on raised platforms and surrounding it all with lights. And damn if he didn't make that small swath of real estate his bitch. He vamped, danced, strutted, and did the splits sending the young ladies at the show (of which there were many) into a frenzy. All while wearing a leather jacket festooned with black feathers. Well played, Miguel.

Drake
  • Drake
Drake had much more room to maneuver around—the huge circle on stage was at least 40 feet in diameter—and did an impressive job of not looking lost amid that vastness. He worked the crowd from all sides, including an overlong stretch spent on a huge circular catwalk hovered above the audience pointing out individuals ("I see you there in old school Toronto jersey, trying to make me feel at home... I see you baby girl in the jean skirt and long blonde hair..."), and kept the tracks from his four albums flying out at a comfortable clip.

It was, by and large, a fun show, but like the tone of many stadium shows, a little too relentless. What moments there were to catch one's breath were few, outside of Drake stopping to rile the crowd up a little more or to announce his new partnership with Nike and Air Jordan. Other than that it was track after track after track. The only time that changed was when singer Jhene Aiko emerged from the center of the ring to sing her half of the airy R&B-infused ballad "From Time." As it does on NWTS, the song cracked things open to let a blast of cold, skin-tingling air into the room and Drake's tightly coiled fist of a performance loosened up as he rapped most of the song sitting at Aiko's feet.

More photos from the show:

Future
  • Future
Future
  • Future
Miguel
  • Miguel
Miguel
  • Miguel
Miguel
  • Miguel
Miguel
  • Miguel
Miguel
  • Miguel
Drake
  • Drake
Drake
  • Drake
Drake
  • Drake
Drake
  • Drake
Drake
  • Drake
Drake
  • Drake