Paul R. Giunta / Invision/AP

Drake performs during Lil Baby’s Birthday Party at State Farm Arena on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2022, in Atlanta.

When Drake, the acclaimed singer and rapper, finally made his appearance Friday and descended a lower-bowl stairway at the center of T-Mobile Arena on his way to the stage, the crowd was beyond being full of anticipation.

It was about 9:35 p.m. — more than 90 minutes after the announced 8 p.m. concert time and about 20 minutes after opening act Lil Yachty had finished his short set.

But, as was evident by the ovations throughout the remainder of the night, Drake was well worth the wait.

His first song, which he performed while seated on a sofa on the stage that he was sharing with a young boy — on whose face an AI hologram of a young Drake appeared — was “Look What You’ve Done,” the first of seven cuts he sang Friday from his 2011 “Take Care” album.

The reception he received after that tune led him to pause, then compliment the audience for the kindness he’s been shown and warm receptions he has always received in Las Vegas. “Except for in the casinos,” where there was no kindness, he joked.

The second song was also “for my Day Ones,” he said. “I’m gonna play this song and you’re gonna know what kind of party we’re gonna have tonight.” Then he sang another of his early works, “Marvin’s Room.” When he finished, he asked, “Should I keep going? I’ve got more” and answered himself by launching into “Say Something,” a 2009 Timbaland song that helped launch Drake’s singing career.

The Canadian-born singer, who got his start in entertainment in 2001 on “Degrassi, the Next Generation,” a teen television drama, told the audience he remembered being in Las Vegas at the Palms in 2009, filming a music video with Rick Ross. Looking down from his room at the Palms onto the nearby Strip properties, Drake said he remembered thinking to himself back then, “I wonder if I’ll ever get big enough to play one of those places.”

He has, and he did again this weekend with capacity shows Friday and Saturday.

To hear Drake tell it, though, he almost didn’t make it for his Labor Day weekend show. His “It’s All A Blur” tour’s last stop before shows Friday and Saturday at T-Mobile was two nights earlier at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia. He flew into Las Vegas on Friday — a day when the area was buffeted by thunderstorms and heavy rain.

“There was the weather … the plane was late. There was this thing, that thing. … It was a bumpy-a– flight here. It was terrible,” Drake told the audience midshow, acknowledging the sloshy, rainy conditions fans in attendance also went through to make it to Friday’s show.

Safely inside T-Mobile, those fans were treated to both aural and visual delights during the show, including a massive statue of Virgil Abloh, Drake’s good friend and collaborator who died in 2021 after a two-year bout with cancer. Throughout the concert, a variety of oversized visuals appeared above the squared, black stage at the center of the arena. Among them: A floating sperm; a flying Peter Pan; a buxomy, bikini-clad anime-style woman; a bride; and a black-cloaked, ghost-faced slasher wielding a giant knife.

But the fans’ biggest delight was in Drake himself, who brought enormous energy to the arena for his two-plus hours on stage. He covered nearly every square inch of the stage, running, skipping, hopping, all the while performing a bevy of songs from his lengthy catalog, including “God’s Plan,” “In My Feelings,” and “Nice for What.” At one point, he left the stage to head to a DJ stand at the southwest end of the floor, where he danced to and joined in on several songs, including “Find Your Love,” “Passion Fruit” and Rhianna’s “Work.”

That was followed up by fellow artist 21 Savage entering the arena from the opposite side of the lower bowl, descending the stairs through the crowd. Together, they delivered an energetic six songs, including “On BS,” “Spin Bout U” and “Rich Flex” from their album, “Her Loss.”

After 42 songs, all that was left was a three-song encore: “The Ride,” “Cameras” and “Legend.”

Until his appearances this past weekend, including an afterparty at Zouk Nightclub at Resorts World, Drake hadn’t performed publicly in Las Vegas since a pair of shows in 2019 at XS Nightclub at the Wynn-Las Vegas and a pair of 2018 concerts at MGM Grand Garden Arena. The T-Mobile concerts, like his entrance Friday, were a reminder that Drake was worth the wait.

jo[email protected] / 702-259-4186 / @newspapereditor

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Mike McNamara

Mike McNamara

A Las Vegas Realtor since 2008. Mike has a wide range of knowledge around all things Las Vegas.

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