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October 18, 2018

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Drake finds live footing during Summer Sixteen tour stop at T-Mobile Arena

One of the biggest stories of the year in popular music is Drake reveling in excess.

The Toronto-based rapper has rewritten Billboard chart records since releasing his fourth full-length studio album, "Views", in April. It’s a collection of material that, clocking in at more than 81 minutes, is nothing if not extensive.

His corresponding “Summer Sixteen” tour is just as bloated — but mostly in the right ways. Drake cranked out more than 40 songs with a double set that lasted over two hours in Sunday night’s sold-out tour stop at T-Mobile Arena.

“This is the best crowd I’ve seen in Vegas hands down,” Drake said in the middle of the show. “The energy level in here, I’m proud of what’s going on out here.”

The sentiment went back in the other direction for the roughly 15,000 fans in attendance, only stronger. Most fell into a crazed state simply by seeing the superstar, but others were surely surprised.

With a high production value and his own endless energy, Drake has finally found a way to put on a live spectacle that comes close to doing justice to his colossal stature in pop culture.

It hasn’t been that way for most of Drake’s career, as jokes about his performance ability are another thing that have come in bulk. His last local concert, a year ago at the Boulevard Pool at Cosmopolitan, supported the criticisms as Drake’s primary motivation seemed to be getting to the after party with an uninspired set that sampled small segments of songs.

He cranked out far more numbers on Sunday, showcasing his temperamental style by alternating between braggadocios bass-thumpers and maudlin mid-tempo ballads.

“We’re going to stop all that singing (expletive) because that’s not what I’m here for,” Drake said in seguing from the sappy “One Dance” to the spiteful “Back to Back.” “Press that Vegas button so we can go all out.”

The best button Drake may have pushed on the tour is bringing along collaborator and fellow rap titan Future, who came out in a 30-minute relief role. Future fired up the crowd during his time on stage, though not as naturally as Drake.

The nihilistic mumble from the Atlanta rapper’s recorded output sounded more like a savage bark live. Drake’s voice wasn’t perfect, either, as he crooned off-key in a number of spots to reinforce the fact that it’s his creativity and not singing ability that’s enabled such success.

As feuds throughout his career have shown, Drake also thrives off of competition — even if it’s of the friendly variety. He was never more lively and on point than when he re-emerged after his Future respite.

The two then joined forces to perform “Big Rings” and “Jumpman” off of their joint "What A Time To Be Alive" mixtape. They are probably the two most essential tracks the two recorded together, but not diving deeper into what’s quietly the highest-quality release from both artists over the last year was a squandered opportunity.

Those in attendance didn’t seem to mind as Drake got more consistent use out of his stage’s impressive gadgetry during his final solo stretch. Hundreds of balloon-like figures that lit up while ascending and descending — first put into use earlier for “Hotline Bling” — went into constant motion.

Drake also got one last gasp out of LED screen-fronted platforms that sprung up at various intervals. Audience sing-alongs reached a deafening level during the catchy “Know Yourself,” shortly after dancing hit a high for the quixotic “Controlla.”

Everything felt headed for a peak at the opening notes of “Energy,” until Drake inexplicably relied on a backing vocal track while he raced back and forth across the stage during the song’s infectious hook. It would have packed more of a punch if Drake had opted to sing along with thousands of fans that sounded more adoring than ever during the ode to enemies.

“Honestly, this has been one of the most fun and enjoyable moments of my life,” Drake said afterward.

Drake has proven many wrong before, but it feels like he’s at the height of his stardom. It’s fortunate that he molded a concert experience to reflect as much and that Las Vegas could witness it.

Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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