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The best Buffalo’s ever had: Drake performs at Darien Lake

blog by Avery Hartmans  • 

Hip-hop fans throughout the area died and went to heaven last night during Drake’s show at Darien Lake.

The Toronto native put on an impressive and energetic set, part of his Club Paradise Tour that will continue throughout the East coast.

Opening for Drake was a whole passel of other hip-hop artists, including French Montana, 2 Chainz, Meek Mill, Waka Flocka Flame and J.Cole. Though French Montana, 2 Chainz and Meek Mill were all definitely missable, Waka Flocka put on an extremely loud, though entertaining show. During his last few songs, he made his way through the audience on top of the chairs, much to Darien Lake security’s delight, I’m sure. I got close enough to touch him, but opted not to because he is, in fact, a giant. 

Though Waka Flocka’s set was heavy on gunshot sounds and light on decipherable lyrics, the crowd still loved him and went nuts when he performed perhaps his most famous song, “No Hands.” The audience knew it so well, he was able to sit on the stage looking bored well they did his work for him.

J.Cole performed afterward, coming onstage almost exactly at his appointed time — these hip-hop artists are nothing if not punctual — and playing with an electric guitarist, keyboardist and drummer, which created a far better sound than the typical DJ playing backing tracks.

His best song by far, “Work Out,” was just as fantastic as expected and contrary to the other openers, J.Cole didn’t rely solely on yelling his lyrics into the microphone to be heard. And I was immediately sold on J.Cole when he requested the crowd put their “diamonds in the air” — the symbol of Jay-Z’s Roc-A-Fella Records — and told the audience “I love the s*** out of y’all.”

There was a slightly longer wait between J.Cole and Drake, which afforded ample opportunity to people-watch. The most confusing thing was the girls dressed like they were headed to the club, when in fact they were at an outdoor concert at an amusement park. But it was really entertaining to watch drunk girls attempt to navigate the rocky ground all around the venue in six-inch heels.

Drake began his set a little after 9:30, appearing onstage in front of a wall of miniature screens that created a constantly-changing image and performing “Under Ground Kings” off his newest album, “Take Care.” He went on to perform DJ Khaled’s “I’m On One,” which featured a surprisingly good guitar solo for a hip-hop show.

Drake compared his set to a night out, claiming that his slower jams were meant for the drive to the club, while his faster-paced, heavier beats were for getting your grind on inside the club (which many concert-goers did not hesitate to do, as I witnessed more than one lap dance). He then brought Waka Flocka back onstage to perform “Round of Applause,” shooting off sparks when it was time to “make that a** clap.” Drake proclaimed was the perfect song for last call at the club, which he thinks is around 2 a.m. He clearly hasn’t spent enough time in Buffalo.

The highlight of the set was, by far, “Take Care” off of his latest album. The track mixes heavy dance beats with some surprisingly soulful lyrics. Drake’s gravelly voice complements perfectly Rihanna’s Barbados accent, creating what is definitely the best song either one of them has made lately. And Drake didn’t disappoint in concert either: he shot off fireworks during the song and extended the track an extra minute, pumping up the bass and getting the entire crowd dancing.

He slowed it down after that and talked to the crowd, doing shout-outs to people in the audience and pointing out everyone he saw in Toronto Blue Jays hats. While it was cute and probably really exciting for the people who got noticed — especially for the girl in the orange dress who he informed the crowd looked “fine as hell” last night —  it went on for way too long and interrupted the flow of the set.

His shoutouts also inspired some bizarre behavior by audience members trying to get noticed, like the crazy girl next to me who hopped on her boyfriend’s shoulders, ripped off her shirt and then proceeded to perform cringe-inducing, X-rated sex acts. Thankfully, Drake eventually picked it back up again and performed “HYFR,” shooting out flames that were so hot, I could feel the heat 20 rows back.

The big disappointment of the night was “The Motto.” Drake’s die-hard fans in “YOLO” t-shirts probably didn’t care, but the song was underwhelming performed live. For a track that’s inspired millions to adopt his motto, You Only Live Once, as a way of life, I expected a lot. The heavy beat and catchy lyrics were all there, but maybe Drake is even sick of the song himself because his performance was rather lackluster. But if that was the only real downside of his show, I guess I can deal with it.

Despite the possible contact high I received from the people in front of me smoking joints and the horrifying fashion choices I witnessed, Drake was worth it. His performance was exciting to watch, he connected with the audience and he made me dance, which is all I ever really want. Plus, he told the audience he felt like he was at home in Buffalo and we were the best crowd he’s played for yet. Even though I know he says that to everyone, it gets me every time. 

TAGGED: drake, drake darien lake, hip hop, hip-hop music, music

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