Twenty minutes into his show on Wednesday, Drake offered an apology of sorts.
“I was trying to get the emotional stuff out of the way,” he told a sold-out crowd at TD Garden. Now it was time to get the party started.
It was a slyly funny remark from a guy whose entire body of work boils down to emotion. Born in Canada as Aubrey Graham, he is one of rap’s most astute writers, highly attuned to his feelings and devoted to making sure you understand them.
Drake has something to say, and his latest tour is built around a simple idea: a minimal stage design meant to frame its outsize star. Drake’s words are enough of a spectacle to hold you rapt.
From the get-go, it was inherently a charged evening. Drake was playing to a full house while Red Sox Nation roared across town at Fenway Park. Drake was hyped up, too, routinely giving updates on the score: “6-1, bottom of the seventh, Boston Red Sox.”
He eased into the night with “Tuscan Leather,” the opening track from his new album, “Nothing Was the Same,” with snippets of “Headlines” and “Crew Love” spliced in. When he returned to “Tuscan Leather,” he got to the meat of that song’s chorus: “How much time is this [expletive] spending on the intro?”
Very little, it turned out. The show’s pacing was as brisk as his rhymes, his words weaving in and out of occasionally just a single verse before mashing into the next song. His dense wordplay made Future, a rising rapper who appeared for just 10 minutes in the middle of Drake’s set, look like exactly that: a warm-up act.
The singer Jhené Aiko, who appears on Drake’s new album, also turned up, adding a ghostly sophistication to “From Time.” It felt like a bookend to the simmering sensuality of “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” the night’s sweetest singalong.
Toward the end of the night, a massive, circular catwalk hovered over the crowd, and Drake used it to survey his admirers. Anyone who caught his attention got a shout-out, from “that guy with the beard” to “these two girls right here look drunk, like they’re at a Miley Cyrus show.”
Neo R&B singer Miguel began the night in lovers-rock mode, his falsetto croon ricocheting around the Garden like a modern-day Marvin Gaye. Like Drake, he knows it all comes down to emotion and how you express it.James Reed can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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