Photographs by Janine Van Oostrom.
With students across the United States preparing to head back to school, the Summer Sixteen Tour was the best way to celebrate the end of the summer. Drake and Future fans from both sides of the border gathered under the roof of the First Niagara Center, for what could easily be considered the concert of the year.
Opening acts for such successful artists like Drake and Future have an extremely tough job keeping the crowd entertained and in full hype mode. OVO Sounds Roy Woods and DVSN put on their very best to bring the energy. The crowd was electric as DVSN’s Daniel Day serenaded the crowd with falsettos leaving chills their spines. Everyone was on their feet the moment “Billie Jean” began playing to pay tribute to the King of Pop. As DVSN transitioned with a hometown Buffalo DJ, who played popular hip-hop songs from: Montell Jordan’s “This is How We Do It” to O.T. Genasis’ “CoCo” which peaked on the Billboard Hot 100 at #20 in 2014. His set managed to reach generations of hip-hop fans and prepare them for what they were about to witness.
The anticipation and restlessness of the crowd as they waited Drake began to heighten. As alcohol flooded through the veins of concertgoers you could see tensions run high in certain areas of the arena. One altercation ended up with one fan urinating on another, which is something you don’t see every day. As the lights began to dim the roar of the crowd began to echo as Drake rose to the stage; and everything else faded away.
From “Summer Sixteen” to “Still Here” right into the Grammy nominated “Started From the Bottom”, the crowd proved early on that they were going to prove to be the best crowd of the Summer Sixteen Tour. And Drake agreed. While interacting with the crowd, he let them know that Buffalo holds a very special place in his heart. Back in 2009, Drake performed a few songs from his third mixtape So Far Gone to a small crowd at Daeman College in Amherst. This throwback of emotions prompted a super cut of classic Drake hits like “Headlines”, “HYFR”, “Over” and “Trophies” which let his day one fans know how grateful he is for them.
The self-proclaimed 6 God does an outstanding job of showing you the “views” of his city through the aesthetics of his stage. Images of the CN Tower flash behind him as he makes his way through “9”, “U With Me?” and “Feel No Ways.” Even though the concert took place in Buffalo there were quite a few Canadians, and more specifically Torontonians who felt like they were right at home.
One of the most memorable moments of the concert was when Drake made his way to the middle of a darkened stage, and one of his lights, now beaming pink, slowly trickled down to stage level. As he began talking to the light, the entire crowd imploded because they knew what was next. “Hotline Bling” provided amazing light choreography as they rose and fell to the beat of the music. It also allowed the Toronto native to display his iconic dance moves that turned him into a meme the moment the music video dropped, last October.
As one of the most successful rappers on the planet, Drake wanted to make sure he had the ability to interact with everyone in the arena, making them feel more apart of the show than they were ready for. As he enclosed himself on a moving stage, fans in the upper bowls prepared to see the superstar up close and personal. With his sensational ability to go from fiery Rap to mellow R&B, he decided to bring the tempo down and serenade the crowd with “Hold On, We’re Going Home” his second single off the 2013 album Nothing Was The Same. While he looked around the arena Drake was so amazed by the number of fans sporting not only his merchandise, but also jerseys for his hometown Toronto Raptors.
After twenty plus songs it was time for Future to take over, and continue to feed off the energy the crowd was provided. With a fresh pair of legs and angst built-up from being backstage, the Atlanta born rapper equipped with pyrotechnics blew the roof off spitting verses from A$AP Ferg’s “New Level”. He carried his energy through a packed set featuring “Bugatti”, “Move That Dope, “I Thought It Was A Drought” and “Purple Reign”. As the high continue, Drake re-emerged ready for round two. The duo sang “Big Rings” and “Jumpman” from their collaborative mixtape What A Time To Be Alive. Drake and Future really worked both sides of the stage ensuring the entire arena was jumping in-sync to the beats of the music. The party had reached a level that Drake knew he could take one step further.
One of the most beautiful things about Views is the different genres that the album speaks to. Fans who have been through it all can appreciate Drake’s callbacks to his Hip-Hop and R&B roots, but Dancehall Drake is an upcoming movement that has put him on the tops of the Billboard charts. The screams from the crowd hit a peak high when Rihanna’s “Work” began. Drake kept asking everyone to show the Barbados singer some love. As the transition into “Too Good” began, the crowd was crippled with anxiety wondering if RiRi was dropping in on the 716 for a surprise visit. Sadly Rihanna’s Anti World Tour began in Switzerland on Friday night, so the crowd was left to just sing her parts as best as they could.
The concluding section of the Summer Sixteen Tour brought out all the stops and made no apologies. From the Grammy nominated dis track “Back to Back” to the crowd screaming “Turn my birthday into a lifestyle” in unison during “Pop Style”. The show was coming to an end and the fans made sure to give everything they had in the last moments. To cap off the night Drake brought it back to 2015 with “Know Myself” and “Energy” from If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. Upon leaving the arena Drake’s Summer Sixteen Tour leaves you with the desire to want to re-live this concert experience as soon as possible.