NEW YORK – It’s easy to forget how many hit songs Drake created in his nearly 15-year musical career. But he presented an emphatic reminder with an intimate concert at Harlem’s Apollo Theater on Saturday, his first-ever show at the legendary venue.
During the performance, the four-time Grammy winner teased that new music could be on the way, despite releasing two albums last year.
“I thought about a bunch of things in life, but at this moment in time, none of those things are stopping making music for you,” Drake told the doting crowd. “I hope I can strike up some more emotions for you, maybe this year — I might get bored and make another one.”
The first night of two Apollo weekend shows presented by SiriusXM, featured the 36-year-old ripping off songs at a frantic pace — most with just a verse and chorus — satisfying day-one fans with fan-favorite, deep non-radio cuts as well as those only familiar with his No. 1 hits. The recorded performances will air on Drake’s SiriusXM Sound 42 channel in the coming weeks.
Noting this was his first show in about five years and later stating “I’ll be out and about on the road a lot this year,” Spotify’s most-streamed artist in the U.S. last year told his captivated audience the show was about gratefulness.
“I wanted to make this a show about gratitude," Drake said. "This is a little story we put together: my deep love for my family, for my dear friends and each and every one of you that have been supporting me for a long time.”
Donning cornrows while wearing baggy jeans and a blue and yellow Jimmy Brooks basketball jersey — a nod to his days as an actor on the teen drama series “Degrassi” — Drake opened the performance with “Over My Dead Body” as celebrity guests such as Justin and Hailey Bieber, former NBA MVP and current Brooklyn Nets star Kevin Durant, NFL star Odell Beckham Jr., rappers A$AP Ferg and A Boogie wit da Hoodie watched.
Sitting on a bed positioned stage-right, modeled after his bedroom in his mom’s Toronto basement where he said he wrote songs, Drake belted out many of his down-tempo, B-side hits such as “Wu-Tang Forever,” “Trust Issues,” “Practice” and “Feel No Ways.”
He also sang his most popular deep cut, “Marvin’s Room,” as the standing-room only crowd joined him word-for-word before transitioning into his hook from Timbaland’s “Say Something” as the “Marvin’s Room” beat continued.
As the bedroom set dimmed and the light shifted to the left side of the stage, revealing a board room, Drake changed into a black leather hoodie with his OVO owl symbol. The rapper stood in front of a performer playing a record label exec who skeptically noted it was “interesting” he was a rapper from Canada, before saying, “Alright, let’s see what you got.” (Drake would later remind the crowd how every major record label in New York passed on him.)
Starting with “Best I Ever Had,” the R&B smash that jump-started his career, he continued his musical journey with early Young Money-era hits such as Headlines, “HYFR,” “Started From the Bottom” and “I’m on One.” The crowd also two-stepped to his more danceable records like “Massive” from last year’s “Honestly, Nevermind” project, as well as “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” “One Dance,” “Passionfruit” and “In My Feelings.”
The final leg of the 90-minute set opened with a surprise performance by the popular early 2000s Harlem rap collective, The Diplomats, which featured Drake wearing Cam’ron’s signature pink hoodie and headband. He was then joined by 21 Savage to perform songs such as “Rich Flex,” “Spin Bout You” and “Knife Talk” from their joint project, “Her Loss,” released in November.
The longtime tagline for the Apollo is “Where Stars are Born and Legends are Made!” So it was either strategic or serendipitous that he ended the show with “Legend.” While it might be too soon to drape him with the legend moniker in the manner that Apollo Walk of Fame icons such Michael Jackson, Prince, Aretha Franklin James Brown carry, he left no doubt that he is well on his way.
Follow Associated Press entertainment journalist Gary Gerard Hamilton at: @GaryGHamilton on all his social media platforms.