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.