Drake: Artist Thrills XL Center

As seen on The Recorder

By Aundréa Murray

Musically, Hartford has been quite fortunate with the number of celebrities to have blessed the city with their presence, and last weekend, the presence of rapper Drake was no exception. Hearts melted at the thought that not only Drake but award-winning artists Miguel and Future had plans to hit the stage to impress hundreds of CT residents. Without a ticket, one could have guaranteed themselves a poorly-spent Saturday evening.

Traffic on I-84 that night, whether east or westbound, illustrated how successful of a show it would be. License plates from New York, Massachusetts and even as far as New Jersey congested the downtown Hartford area making onlookers curious of what the hype was all about.

Connecticut’s number one radio station, Hot 93.7, had stereo systems bumping with a bountiful amount of Drake’s hit songs. It was just enough to raise the anticipation of witnessing a performance known to sell out dozens of shows across the country. Between listening to oldies like his debut track “Successful” and hearing the progress with his music all of the way to his club-favorite “Started From The Bottom”, Drake fans especially knew they had much to look forward to.

Hartford’s XL Center was a zoo of people selling T-shirts embroidered with Drake’s album cover and herds of some of the his most dedicated supporters. By 8pm, the once extremely packed hallways were slowly becoming more and more scarce. The show had begun and Future was already working his way onstage to get the swelling crowd excited. He learned quickly that the entire stadium was beyond prepared for the main event. He still managed to entertain us all, as antsy as we all were.

Miguel’s performance did the complete opposite of what many believe would happen when he touched the stage. It was as though every minute that passed without Drake being on stage would be the longest minute ever. In retrospect, Miguel’s energy provided so much energy for the crowd, that even for a split second, Drake was the last thing on our minds. His acrobatic dance moves riled people up while his soothing voice calmed everyone down again. But by the end, everyone was ready to see Drake.

There were no magic carpets, no hidden Ferraris and definitely no shocking surprises for his entrance. Running on stage like he was as excited to see the crowd as the crowd was to see him, not a single soul could have been sitting down. An eruption of screams and cheers was overwhelming; it was as if President Obama had walked onto the stage.

What was thought to be a pretty predictable event turned out to be filled with surprises after all, starting with guest performer Jhene Aiko. Her angelic voice on the song “From Time” is something most looked forward to hearing over the speakers, but to witness her presence in person had a sentimental effect on an otherwise lively show. She dressed in all white, matching Drake’s pure white ensemble and wowed the audience.

That was not the beginning.

Drake completely transformed the inside of the XL Center. His stage was split into two large circles, creating an incredible focus point directly at him. Mid-way through the show, a circular cage was suspended from the air over the crowd for him to walk on. He spent the next 20 minutes catering to each and every section of the venue, pointing out fans and calling the attention to any fan that stood out to him. It was such a personal touch that drove fans wild.

By night’s end, Downtown’s streets flooded with people with lost voices and ringing ears. The musical remains of the evening still lingered among the fans; Drake had given Connecticut an evening to remember.

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