“I’m using tonight as like a case study,” Drake said a few songs into his Friday night headlining set at Governors Ball. “I got a game going on tonight. You want to play?”
New York wanted to play.
Drake wasn’t experimenting with any technical aspects of his Jungle Tour during its stop at Randall’s Island Park. The pyrotechnics (hell yes), the three-dimensional jungle backdrop (a la Max Fisher’s Vietnam play in Rushmore), the video of a snowy landscape playing behind him during “Headlines” (including a few delightfully ridiculous seconds of Drizzy rapping in front an insanely large owl’s face) — it had all been seen before, note-for-note, in the cities that preceded New York on this tour. Judging by reviews of previous stops, his setlist, featuring over 25 songs, was practically identical to that of prior dates, as were the lyrics to a “freestyle” he blended into a medley of songs to close the night. The case study, what Drake was testing, was if the crowd would be able to match his energy, because he was going to bring it.
Governors Ball was one of a handful of stops the Toronto MC scheduled to fill the void between the sudden release of his latest album/mixtape, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, and his forthcoming album/album, Views from the 6, which is due out later this year, probably at 3:00 a.m. on some Wednesday none of us will anticipate. But even without the tour, Drake has managed to stay fresh in the mind of the public, somehow, some way. If it isn’t fallout from an awkward kiss with Madonna, it’s being spotted drawing attention to himself courtside at basketball games…but since the Raptors were knocked out of the playoffs in the first round this year, it’s posting a shirtless picture on Instagram, one to which Justin Bieber commented “damn daddy,” which brought even more attention to the picture and to Drake. After finishing “6 God” during Friday night’s set, he briefly revealed his chest when he lifted up his black shirt up to wipe the sweat from his face. It’s hard to believe he didn’t know exactly what he was doing. A high-pitched communal wail exhaled from the females in the audience (and Bieber?), before he launched into “Worst Behavior.”
On the next page: “This is the type of shit I like”
Part of the reason Drake was so intent on working the crowd into a frenzy — and he really did demand enthusiasm throughout the night — was his performance as a headliner at Coachella in April. People hated him. So panned were his two sets that Drake himself even admitted he “took an L for the first time.” Governors Ball was his first festival set since, and it was clear from the very beginning that he was determined to prove he could indeed rock a massive outdoor crowd. Early in the set, as he presided over his kingdom for the night in black pants and a neon yellow hoodie, he liked what he saw. “Oh, this shit is perfect right here,” he said, nodding in approval. “This is the type of shit I like.”
While he had guests join him onstage at Coachella, at Governors Ball Drake positioned himself as a singular, regal, and almost God-like presence in a way no rapper outside of Kanye would dare attempt. For the 90 minutes he was onstage, it was Drake and Drake alone, bounding through spotlights, pacing back and forth with purpose, and generally just peacocking the shit out of the performance. The show was monolithic in its Drizzyness.
The set featured a diverse selection of tracks, with the ominous darkness of If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late prevailing as the overall vibe of the proceedings. After setting the tone with several songs from that album, he dropped in a section that saw him rap his verses on Big Sean’s “Blessings,” ILOVEMAKONNEN’s “Tuesday,” and Fetty Wap’s “My Way.” He also played “Crew Love,” throughout which he paid homage to The Weeknd so profusely and with such earnestness that for a second I thought his fellow Torontonian might have died recently and I somehow didn’t hear about it. “This goes out to you, wherever you are,” Drake said at one point. He then teased a possible upcoming collaboration.
For all of the fan-favorite bangers that were greeted with appropriate enthusiasm, Drake couldn’t help but slow it down for a while, too, turning into Sensitive Drake for “Find Your Love,” “Take Care,” an extended version of “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” and “My Side.” Most of the audience treated this section like a set break, but there was plenty of swooning and swaying and singing along, as well. Drake, don’t hurt ’em. “You know I gotta sing about the candles and the shower and the bathroom,” he said after finishing up “My Side.” “You know I gotta do that…Now let’s get back to the shit you came for.” Cue “0 to 100.” The break was over.
At the end of the night, the Governors Ball crowd passed Drake’s energy test and he passed ours, exceedingly. After a fireworks show exploded from the top of the main stage scaffolding, he called it the greatest festival crowd he’s ever played for, and a show that he’ll always remember. Considering how orchestrated every nuance of the set was, who knows if he’ll actually be bouncing Drizzy Jr. on his knee and telling him about #GovBallNYC 2015, but we’ll take the compliment.