High above the arena floor, Drake strolled around a suspended catwalk at the Honda Center in Anaheim, singling out audience members for a few seconds of face time with the man they’d paid to encounter.
“You’ve been giving me love all night,” the hip-hop star told the crowd below him during his show Thursday night. “Now I get to give it right back to you.”
The two lines capture Drake, 27, in a nutshell: He's an object of adoration who makes his fans feel like they’re the cherished ones.
“I see you jumping up and down, looking like a young Taylor Swift,” he said, pointing at a woman doing just that. “Oh, my man pulled out the tuxedo for the Drake show!” he told a guy who had indeed turned up in black tie. “That’s rare.”
This went on for a full 15 minutes, as Drake’s band vamped on the watery groove from his song “305 to My City.”
A dependable spectacle, the bit has become a regular feature on Drake’s tour behind his third studio album, “Nothing Was the Same,” which came out in September and has sold more than 1 million copies. (The show is to hit Staples Center on Monday.)
Fame may close other artists off, his catwalk routine seemed to say, but not Drake, a super-sized celebrity with super-sized feelings.
The Canadian rapper's music over the last few years – starting with the melodic mixtapes that served as a bridge from his background as a child actor on “Degrassi: The Next Generation” – has redefined hip-hop’s old-fashioned bluster as a kind of chest-beating sensitivity.
For him, being harder than the competition means feeling emotions harder.
"Girl, I felt like we had it all planned out / I guess I ... up the vision," he admitted Thursday in "From Time," using emphatic language, "Learning the true consequences of my selfish decisions."
Other parts of Thursday’s gig emphasized the rapper’s star power in more conventional ways, as when he blazed through scattered verses from some of the many hits by other artists on which he’s appeared: French Montana’s “Pop That,” DJ Khaled’s “No New Friends,” “No Lie” by 2 Chainz. (He also brought out Future, one of his opening acts along with Miguel, to do their parts on Lil Wayne’s “Love Me.”)
“We could do this all night,” Drake said. “I got, like, a hundred of these.”
But then there was his rendition of “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” the plush R&B tune from “Nothing Was the Same” that’s spent much of the fall near the top of Billboard’s Hot 100.
Drake said he wanted to bring a female fan onstage to serenade, which promised arena-concert business as usual -- until, that is, a stagehand delivered a smartly dressed blond woman who appeared to be in her 60s.
This was Virginia from Newport Beach, as she introduced herself, and she easily met Drake’s approval (“Oh, this is suede,” he said, caressing her jacket) even as she upset generalized notions about who makes up the rapper’s audience.
Is that why Drake’s crew selected her? No doubt.
Along with his lyrics about heartbreak and his exuberantly goofy dancing, Virginia was one more reminder that although Drake’s success has made him a standard-bearer, a king to be copied, he’s still a deeply singular presence. And of that he seems deeply proud.
Twitter: @mikaelwoodCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun