Drake at Comfort Dental, 5/13/12

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Last night at Comfort Dental Amphitheatre, not only did Drake bring along a slew of his homeboys for The Club Paradise tour, he displayed mind-blowing artistry. Erudite and gorgeous, the Toronto MC charmed the entire place with his theatrics and gestures while his live band crushed shit behind him. Removing clothes as he went along, he ran through hit after hit after hit, bringing guest MCs 2Chainz, Waka Flocka (who is one bad ass motherfucker, but more on him in a minute) and French Montana out to join him. After watching him perform for more than an hour, one thing's for sure, and two is for certain: You can hate on October's Very Own if you want to, but you're wasting your time.

The audience knew it was about to go down as soon as a poised (and very brave) camera guy was lifted up about fifty feet in the air by crane on the stage. The opaque curtain dropped, the band set themselves in place, and a bizarre hush came over the amphitheater. The lights dropped, the bass hit, and boom! There he was wearing a purple hoodie with a scowling owl emblazoned on it, surveying the stage and with a look of confidence, Drake soared into "Lord Knows."

He was pitch perfect, and the grin was damaging among the audience of mostly girls -- and guys trying to get girls. Some artists require time before hitting the sweet spot at concerts, but Drake started wrecking shit as soon as he touched the stage. The bounce factor set in with "Underground Kings" before he treated us to a rousing and ridiculously exciting rendition of "Miss Me." We got to see him become a fan and sing along to The Weeknd's chorus for "Crew Love," while the Denver crowd joined him before he slowed things down with a way too seductive go at "She Will."

More than the energy Drake poured into his performance and into the crowd, his set was like theater. The lights, at times, formed ladders around the hulking set, engulfing the superstar in an array of patterns, words and images. The band set fire to "Up All Night," while we were greeted to gorgeous slowed down images of Aaliyah in the background for "We'll Be Fine."

Drake kept the "Club Paradise," theme going with constant reminders of the songs he likes to hear in the club, using this segue to bring out 2 Chainz for their new joint, "No Lie." The two looked like good friends as they stalked the stage to the heavy beat, rapping the words both to each other and the adoring crowd. 2 Chainz ended his verse with the signature line, "Truuuue!" before exiting stage right. Drake, down front, then led with, "When it's 1:45 in the morning, all I want to hear is this next guy I'm about to bring out," before Waka Flocka exploded from the back for their track, "Round of Applause."

Drake danced and threw up his hands, saluting his compadre as they enticed the ladies to "make that ass clap." It might sound crass, but it was fucking amazing in the moment. The hits, man, he has hits for days and days. When the microphone dropped from the ceiling for what would no doubt be a slow number, the crowd went nuts for "Marvin's Room." He lurched and spun himself into a dizzying tizzy for the most explosive version of "Take Care" ever. Being sure to ham it up for the cameras at the bridge of the song, he lifted his shirt to wipe his face, showing off what is no doubt an invincible workout plan (we see you, Drizzy).

Drake interacted quite a bit with the audience last night. There were interludes when all he did was shout out folks in the crowd being sure to call each woman he chatted up "baby," before bringing out French Montana for "Stay Schemin," a song that's hot like fire, even though French Montana looked half asleep for it. We thought it was over with "Make Me Proud," but he kept it moving with the super party anthem, "The Motto."

There were thousands of screams of "YOLO!" echoing throughout the place when Drake ended his set with "Headlines," before jawing with the audience for another ten minutes. Of note, he hugged an eleven year old girl who was down front before jokingly admonishing her to "take her ass home to bed" after the show. Drake packed, in what little time he had, more hits, energy, passion, and drive into one set than most artists offer entire projects. We're not kidding. It was amazing.

Earlier in the evening, French Montana rocked a short set to a slowly filling venue. Most folks were still getting the patted down while he was doing his thing. 2 Chainz had a bit more of a crowd, showing tons of love to Denver while running through his songs, "Riot," the gigantic money loving hit, "Spend it," and "Duffle Bag Boy."

Meek Mill hasn't established that super solid stage presence thing artists need just yet, but he was good on stage with his House Party track, "I'm a Boss," and others. He was carried mostly by his Maybach Music cred and the fact that damn near everybody and their mother downloaded his mixtape this week.The intermission was quick between his set and Waka's and good thing because, we were not prepared for what Waka Flocka was about to accomplish on stage.

Holy dred-lock-shaking Jesus. Wearing red sneakers, red boxers (we could see them) and a Chicago Bulls hat, that motherfucker set the whole entire place on fire. He jumped out into the audience, threw money all over the place and caused an earthquake with his voice and stamina. You have not lived until you've heard thousands of people screaming, the lyrics to "It's a Party" to wartime drum beating. Behind him, his DJ and drummer were disrobing with every song. The drummer was a whole other show himself. He threw drum sticks, jumped up and down, dismantled the drum set while he was playing and removed half his clothes, all while keeping the rhythm. It was sick. Waka Flocka stole the show. We couldn't imagine what J.Cole could do to top it.

Cole emerged onto the stage with his band to an excited crowd. He did his usual numbers, "Blow Up," the joint he has with Drake, "In the Morning," and was all around good on stage. His set had a grown up vibe to it and he employed a few different things with tracks we're familiar with. Ending on a super high note with, "Can't Get Enough," we were all reminded that J.Cole can, will -- and if last night was any indicator -- probably did take your girl.


Personal Bias: I joked around about kissing 2 Chainz all week, but true story, last night if he had asked me to run away with him forever, I MAYBE would have sent a post card. MAYBE.

By The Way: Real shit: Nobody rocks a party like Waka Flocka. He kills shit and doesn't care if you like it or not -- which you should.

Random Detail: Meek Mill was wearing an outfit dangerously close to khaki.

Follow Backbeat on Twitter: @westword_music

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