Published Aug 01, 2011For OVO Fest's second edition, Drake did everything to seem like the generous host. Last year, he brought out Jay-Z and Eminem to close the show. This year, he brought Lil Wayne, Nas and the legendary Stevie Wonder. While it could be argued that ceding the stage to more established performers consistently overshadows him, Drake clearly revels in delivering the surprise appearances as a gift to his hometown. And if that was the barometer for the night, this guest-filled concert was an unqualified success.
The day started with Drake releasing "Headlines," reportedly the lead single from his upcoming album Take Care, and the social network proceeded to speculate who might show up at the Molson Amphitheatre show. According to the rumour mill, Kanye had been spotted at Pearson, and Eminem was within sneezing distance having performed at Osheaga in Montreal. None of them actually made it to the stage, but the crowd would still be sated by the unbilled celebrity appearances.
It was opening act the Weeknd who kicked off the proceedings with a strong set that built on the hype generated by his debut Toronto club gig a mere week ago. Taking the stage with a three-piece band, singer Abel Tesfaye, the man behind the mysterious moniker, seemed to be more relaxed and comfortable on stage than his club debut. Indeed, the crowd was instantly engaged by Tesfaye's yearning falsetto, singing along to opener "High for This" and other songs from his Polaris Music Prize-shortlisted mixtape House of Balloons.
Rick Ross was up next and the Teflon Don's pounding, grandiose beats to tracks like "Hustlin'" and "Blowin' Money Fast" roused the crowd to ecstatic levels at times, his lucid flow ensuring maximum participation in a concert setting. Ross lapped up the adulation, prowling the stage with palpable energy, ending his set with the butter smooth "Aston Martin Music" and egging the crowd to fill in Drake's vocals.
After revealing an intricate lattice framework stage and the hijacked beat for "Dreams Money Can Buy," Drake finally emerged wearing a black sleeveless OVOXO shirt. Backed by his live band, Drake affirmed his love for his hometown ("I've probably bumped into you in the street") and stressed how hard he had worked on the show.
After performing "Show Me a Good Time," Drake's band launched into an extended reworking of SBTRKT's "Wildfire," to which the rapper had only contributed an unofficial verse. And soon, Drake brought out his first guest, J. Cole, to perform their duet "In the Morning." When the second guest emerged, however, both Drake and J. Cole were so geeked that it was if they were both neophytes in a high school cipher.
With his baseball hat brim pulled low over his brow, Nas strolled on stage to a raucous reception performing "Made You Look" and "If I Ruled the World." It seemed as if the deliberate sequencing of consequent songs would have made for more dramatic entrances from Rihanna and Nicki Minaj, but Drake performed "What's My Name?" and "Moment 4 Life" without his female accomplices. Drake didn't forget about the women in the audience, though, and the coda of his performance of "Fancy" indulged in a rather extensive acknowledgement of pretty women in the audience, replete with binoculars.
He used his moody performance of the woozy drunk-dialling "Marvin's Room" to call out people who criticized everything from his eyebrows to his rhyme flow, but soon the attention moved away from Drake again. As a keyboard was being set up after performing "Over," Drake, palpably aware of who was next, abruptly excused himself, vowing "I'll be back." After an awkward delay, the unmistakable figure of Stevie Wonder was brought to the stage, confirming those soundchecking rumours on Twitter to perform a classic set including "I Wish," "My Cherie Amour" and "Superstition," among others.
Only when Wonder yelled "Drake!" did the headlining MC return to the stage to hug the songwriting legend and attempt a brief freestyle with his guest on the keys. With Wonder contributing to the studio sessions for Take Care, this is something the duo are probably used to doing.
The Weeknd had the unenviable task of being on stage next, performing "Trust Issues" with Drake but did well, considering. Saying he had only one more song to perform, Drake then launched into Thank Me Later's "Miss Me," and when a shirtless Lil Wayne emerged in tie-dyed pants to perform his verse, pandemonium ensued, triggering the loudest screams of the night. After the kick drum of "6 Foot 7 Foot" reverberated across the rabid crowd, Rick Ross came back on stage so the trio could perform their verses to DJ Khaled's "I'm on One," arguably the most unavoidable hip-hop song of the summer anchored by Drake's aching hook, for a suitably bombastic finale.