I sometimes wonder how Ross Gellar from Friends might have turned out if he hadn't been kept in check by the other friends on the show. Can you imagine if Ross -- self-absorbed, whiny, insecure -- grew up to be a wealthy CEO of a pharmaceutical company? A tech billionaire in the Mission District? Or, most dangerous option of all, a million-selling rap superstar played constantly on urban radio, who parties with basketball players, creeps into porn stars' DMs and sells out shows around the world?
No longer need we wonder. In the first of his four sold-out shows in the Bay Area Tuesday night, Drake proved himself as the hip-hop version of Ross from Friends, overcompensating for his insecurities on a grand, uncomfortable scale and playing to tired stereotypes for attention for over two hours at Oakland's Oracle Arena.
Drake's set started promising enough. Without a doubt, he's impeccably skilled at working a crowd of 20,000, and for 15 minutes, it was thrill to see the man in action -- running to the edges of the stage, bouncing in time, and making the Bay Area feel special in repeated exhortations of his love for Oakland, the way he's done in past shows here. He has a canny ability to craft catchy hooks, and by now, he's skilled on the mic, rarely relying on backing vocals for support.
But the show quickly devolved into a king-of-the-mountain act, with Drake driving medleys of chopped-up portions of his songs into the crowd's skull, one after the other, as if they were not already firmly lodged there. Snippet after snippet, he threw sharp darts of material that deserved to be performed in full: “Headlines,” “All Me,” “The Motto,” “Over" and so many others.
The effect wasn't punishing, necessarily, but it was inarguably numbing. Coupled with Drake's nattering boasts and stage pyrotechnics so constant that they became predictable, one couldn't help but think after a while: Dude, we get it.
At this point, Drake should have nothing to prove. He has completely dominated popular music in 2016. His latest and weakest album Views has spent more weeks at No. 1 than any album since Frozen, he's broken chart records left and right, and has secured the coveted song of the summer with "One Dance" amidst his ubiquitous presence on the airwaves. It would be reasonable for him to relax a little.