Kelly Roderick / Lantern photographer
For one night, Columbus was with Drake shooting in the gym.
In fact, the Canadian-born MC seemed somewhat surprised when the sold-out crowd at the Schottenstein Center recited the now-infamous line from his verse on “Stay Schemin'” without his aid as part of his set on the Club Paradise Tour, which made its fourth stop on a 17-city U.S. college tour Saturday.
Drake’s fleeting set, which was clocked in at just fewer than 90 minutes, was comprised of many of the rapper’s chart-toppers, including “Forever,” “Headlines” and “Over,” but mostly featured selections from his last album, “Take Care,” which was released Nov. 15.
Propped against a monstrous video screen and with the aid of a live band and lighting effects that could have triggered epilepsy, Drake’s performance was good, but not great. Club hits such as “The Motto” and “Headlines,” which wrapped the set, got the crowd going — it didn’t hurt that the video screen projected the lyrics for the latter — and his ballads, such as “Take Care,” which ended with a rather poignant guitar solo, presented a nice dichotomy representative of the rapper’s library.
Known for being a bit softer than the stereotypical MC, Drake made no qualms publicly displaying his humility. He took a lengthy break in the middle of his set to shout-out fans, including one waving a Canadian flag, a girl on crutches and a patron wearing a knock-off Drake T-shirt. In fact, before walking off stage, he said the Schott “is still my favorite place to perform in the entire world,” and that the sold-out crowd was “one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.” That might have something to do with his verse in “Uptown,” in which he raps, “I see all this money through my Ohio State Buckeyes.”
Despite that, parts of the show felt wonky. Enormous video screens can add a dazzling visual element to a show, but it didn’t here. It primarily flashed grainy, black-and-white images, ranging from girls taking shots for “Marvins Room” to footage of a boxing match during “Forever,” in what was its best use. In fact, it was groan-inducing on “Practice” when it flashed rather gratuitous images of women shaking their rears.
The live band was a nice touch but felt under-utilized as its impact was never really felt, apart from “Take Care.” Jay-Z, who brought a horn section, two drum sets and hype men with his live band when he performed at the Schott in 2009, did it much better.
Drake has quite a devoted fan base, as was evident by the startling number of high school girls who wore skimpy outfits presumably thinking they would impress the crooner. He had his moments — when he told the crowd the noise level was only an eight out of 10, the crowd responded by erupting to a decibel level the men’s basketball team will never dream of hearing — but on the whole, it wasn’t as energetic as other hip-hop shows that have come to Columbus. Ludacris, Jay-Z and Lupe Fiasco all seemingly got a bigger rise out of their crowds, but given that Drake’s library has a higher ratio of ballads than theirs, the fact that dancing was at a minimum in comparison can be somewhat forgiven.
Given the nature of Drake’s catalog, his energy was commendable, though the lack of an encore and tracks such as “Fancy” were head-scratchers. Draped in a towel and guzzling bottles of Dasani after stripping down to a tank-top for “Marvins Room,” however, showed Drizzy was giving it his all for a venue and tour for which he had noticeable admiration.
Despite the show’s flaws, Drake did the best with what he had, even if what was around him, at times, felt (Canada) dry.