Drake with Future, dvsn, Roy Woods at the Air Canada Centre

Photos by Sean Chin.

As fate would have it, Drake’s return to his hometown of Toronto on the Summer Sixteen Tour came as the city pride swelled with excitement over the Blue Jays series and the upcoming Game 3, making it an ideal time to welcome our own 6God back. Jumping on the Jays train, Drake celebrated the wins by wearing a jersey, Canadian flag in hand while opening the show, altering lyrics to shoutout the team and even going so far as to call his show the pre-party for the main event the following day. Spoiler alert: the Jays won, with Drake’s show coming in as a close-second for long weekend celebrations.

“I’ve been gone since July and I’ve missed you with all my heart,” he proclaimed, forgoing speeches he typically shares in different cities about the place he calls home to instead play up the collective sense of belonging that filled the Air Canada Center. It made segments, particularly in the second half with one segment filled with the reggae and dancehall rhythms that run in Toronto’s veins (“Work”, “Too Good”, “Controlla” and “One Dance”) and another drawing from his 2015 release and 6-centric If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, feel more like a shared experience.

Even OVO Sound signees Roy Woods and DVSN, billed as openers for the tour, who are even more accustomed and comfortable with stadium stages compared to the earlier days of the tour, had an added confidence while at home. When Future joined Drake later on, dressed in a Leafs jersey and jumping to hit after hit for a high-stakes set that complemented Drizzy’s more-often-than-not smoother cuts, he easily played into the crowd.

Shifting between moving installations, a floating platform and a second-tier on his stage, Drake fervently packed in as much as he could while delivering what was one of his personal best visual experiences. The floating bulb fixture hasn’t changed since the last time he was in Toronto for the combined tour-OVO Fest dates, but one couldn’t help but continue to be captivated by it as it danced in neon pink lighting during “Hotline Bling” and a moody blue for “Hold On, We’re Going Home”.

Beneath the frills of loud booms, pyrotechnics and thick clouds of dry ice laid a setlist that naturally drew from Views, but also attempted to reach into the depths of Drake’s catalogue. Collaborations like “My Way” and “For Free”, Internet singles “Trophies”, “Summer Sixteen” and “Back to Back” and many a radio favourite including “The Motto” and “Started from the Bottom” were all included. Though satisfying, the attempt at packing in as much as possible resulted in a bittersweet curse of so much to enjoy, but just not enough time to share it all in full-format. If there was ever a frustrating moment, it came during “All of the Hits”, a segment that rolled through partial versions of one top track after the other. This could have been served with an extra few minutes to provide all of the first-time attendees with longer, fleshed out versions of music from previous albums Take Care and Nothing Was the Same. It is, afterall, Views season, one that isn’t slowing anytime soon with a batch of just-announced European dates in the New Year.

Despite a handful of postponed dates in Philadelphia, Newark and yes, even a second Toronto show due to an ankle injury, Drake showed little sign of slowing down during one of the last days of his tour. He energetically trailed from left to right, sparred with Future during “Grammys”, “Big Rings” and “Jumpman” and, because he could, pointed to various sections of the audience for a solid dose of that screaming hometown glory. Drake revels in those types of moments every night in every city, but in Toronto, at home, there’s a greater possessiveness for our global ambassador that makes the experience exclusively a part of our time, and to everyone’s happiness, our moment.

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