Not that the 18,000 fans who packed a raucous AmericanAirlines Arena needed confirmation, but Drake proved Tuesday night that he really does walk on water.
In the first of two shows in Miami with the rap trio Migos, do-overs for a pair of September performances postponed when the rapper took ill, Drake did what Drake does, delivering a string of pop-radio hits and profanity-powered fan favorites that turned his richly diverse audience into a hot, sweaty mess.
But the evening’s special quality was revealed immediately as Drake strode onto the stage, a raised rectangular platform in the center of the arena floor, a space roughly the size of a regulation basketball court and absolutely free of anything but Drake. No amps, no microphone, no musicians, no props, no DJ, just Drake.
And there he would stay for the better part of 90 minutes, rapping, running, jumping, jogging, working the crowd in a wide-open space that at once begged to be filled, but in its emptiness achieved a strange kind of intimacy. While Drake has made his living on bravado, this production illustrates a certain bravery that many acts do not possess.
And then the fun started, as Drake, in all white, rumbled into “Mob Ties,” the black floor beneath him turned bright red. For “Jumpman” it flowed with molten lava, and on “Know Yourself” Drake appeared to be standing on an angry black ocean. And so it went, with whirlpools, insects and a massive 3D scorpion pulsating below him during different songs.
The ultra high-definition display of this lightbox-turned-stage reached its climax when Drake performed the hit single “Hotline Bling” as the floor swayed with the pristine turquoise water of a swimming pool, a half-dozen bikini-ed swimmers doing underwater laps beneath Drake’s feet.
Seen from seats located midway up the arena, the effect was stunning.
Later, beams of laser lights seemed to cut the lines of a basketball floor into the stage as a regulation hoop appeared at one end. A gentleman apparently pulled from the audience took part in a shooting contest and, as Drake and the audience erupted, hit a half-court shot to win $25,000.
In another production flourish, a full-size Ferrari replica floated over the audience during Drake’s Lil Baby cover “Yes Indeed.” In a more delicate, but no less a effective display, a flock of what appeared to be tiny lighted drones periodically hovered over the stage, in groups and more natural, random patterns, adding a touch of the celestial to Drake’s earthy material.
This is not to take anything away from Drake the performer. As a showman, while he’s still not the most convincing conversationalist onstage, few acts today can get an arena this size jumping and shouting lyrics with such unbridled euphoria.
Especially on songs such as “Started From the Bottom,” “Fake Love,” “Nice For What,” “God’s Plan” and “In My Feelings,” Drake’s performance and the response to it almost felt too big for the room.
Migos opened the night with a 40-minute set of Auto-Tuned swagger, then returned during Drake’s set to perform their hits “Walk It Talk It,” “Stir Fry” and, after Drake disappeared through a trap door for a short break, an extended version of “Narcos.”
More star power came in form of a series of special guest performers on Tuesday night, including DJ Khaled, Bad Bunny and Lil Wayne, introduced by Drake as “the reason any of this s–t is possible” and “the greatest rapper of all time.”
Floor ticketholders who want a spot close to Drake’s swimming pool when the Aubrey and the Three Amigos Tour returns to AmericanAirlines Arena on Wednesday should know that the general-admission area around the stage fills up quickly. A security guard said many floor ticketholders were waiting when the doors opened an hour before the 8 p.m. show and they ran to the stage when they got inside.
Drake and Migos perform 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14, at AmericanAirlines Arena, 601 Biscayne Blvd., Miami. The show is a sellout, but Verified Resale tickets are available at Ticketmaster.com.