OVO Fest

Shows that rocked Toronto last week


OVO FEST with DRAKE, THE WEEKND, NELLY, MIGOS, TRAVIS SCOTT, PARTYNEXTDOOR and oth­ers at Bud­weiser Stage, Mon­day, Au­gust 7.

Rat­ing: NNNN No mat­ter who Drake trot­ted out as a spe­cial guest at his eighth an­nual OVO Fest, one sur­prise ap­pear­ance con­sis­tently stole the show: the mas­sive CN Tower replica that loomed over all.

And make no mis­take: Drizzy had to do some­thing big.

Last year, he’d di­min­ished OVO Fest’s spe­cial sum­mer vibes by mov­ing it from Bud­weiser Stage (for­merly Mol­son Am­phithe­atre) to the Air Canada Cen­tre for two nights and pre­tend­ing it was OVO Fest rather than two stops on his Sum­mer Six­teen tour. Kanye West and Ri­hanna made ap­pear­ances, but it still felt more like a Drake arena show with ben­e­fits.

And then he brought out guests like Cam’ron, Gucci Mane and Eminem dur­ing the tour’s U.S. leg, leav­ing Toronto feel­ing like the main chick at home star­ing at the phone while her man par­tied else­where at all hours.

As if to make up for that, this year he gave us a CN Tower replica.

Given how much Toron­to­ni­ans love the TORONTO sign in Nathan Phillips Square and given our af­fec­tion for that giant rubber duck, an over­sized recre­ation of the CN Tower is just what we didn’t know we’d even wanted.

It was cer­tainly a mo­ment when the cur­tain dropped, re­veal­ing the bul­bous civic land­mark glow­ing blue while the real one could be seen through a win­dow to the right.

Drake kept the hits com­ing but OVO Fest is all about guests and it wasn’t a long wait for the first. Ris­ing At­lanta MC Playboi Carti ap­peared 15 min­utes into the set. And they kept on com­ing: At­lanta duo Rae Srem­murd, Toronto rap­per Tory Lanez, New York rap­pers Cardi B and French Mon­tana, At­lanta trio Migos and Hous­ton’s Travis Scott.

PartyNextDoor was the lone OVO Sound-signed artist to cameo dur­ing the main set. He’s the most pop­u­lar, hav­ing scored Bill­board hits, but he’s also the la­bel’s the weak­est live act.

In a se­ries of 20-minute open­ing sets, the rest of the OVO Sound ros­ter em­pha­sized dif­fer­ent strengths: Roy Woods had the showiest dance moves and falsetto, dvsn had the showiest R&B runs and har­monies, and Ma­jid Jor­dan had the most pol­ished live show. Party doesn’t have stage pres­ence but he has hits, so he kept it brief.

En­ter­ing the home­stretch, Drake brought out rap­per/singer Nelly, who’s still ubiq­ui­tous on retro ra­dio. Pop sin­gles Hot In Herre and Ride With Me still hold up, though Nelly let the crowd do most of the singing. He was the evening’s true wild card. These guests are usu­ally the most fun at OVO Fest, though they are less fre­quent now that the show has evolved into a snap­shot of the hip-hop charts in a given sum­mer.

The CN Tower lit up with lasers for The Weeknd’s re­turn. He opened OVO Fest in 2011 when Drake was in Toronto record­ing his Take Care al­bum, which in­cluded sev­eral Weeknd collaborations, of which they per­formed Crew Love.

For the cli­max, Drake brought out long-time friend Baka for Live Up To My Name and Gyalch­ester. You could tell they love bounc­ing around on­stage to­gether and they have a chem­istry that no su­per­star ac­quain­tance can repli­cate.

Eight years since the first OVO Fest, it still feels like no artist seems to crave the love of Toronto the way Drake does. A few times he had to goad the au­di­ence into turn­ing up the vol­ume. Did we not cheer loud enough? Look­ing at that CN Tower set, you won­der if Drake has Toronto on lock or if it’s the other way around.

Drake hit hard at OVO Fest.

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