Temporary Parisian, Parker Bruce, saw Drake this week at Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy. These are his thoughts.
As I’ve been told a few times while living here, Parisian concert audiences are hard to crack. You have to show Parisians something new, not just energy, to get them involved. I’ve seen them crack lately, but the usual Parisian concert stare was broken fully at Drake’s show even before he got onstage, a testament to his power.
The show was held at the Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy, which could double for any stadium in America. Sitting up in the nosebleeds, surveying the not-full standing room, I was at home. Drake arrived on stage with a “Lord Knows” snippet (is there a more perfect entrance song?) and informed us with noticeable conviction, “I go by the name of Drizzy Motherfuckin’ Drake… Welcome to the greatest club in the world,” referring to the name of the tour: Club Paradise. The push and shove sway of the group down below looked exhilarating, like skaters on an ice rink highlighted by visceral light work. I wished I were down there. Apparently, water bottles had to be passed out, and people were fainting. Drake did a brief bit of the grind of “She Will,” and, around this point, he smiled.
All the songs came fast, like he was in a hurry. How could he not do all of “Marvin’s Room”? When the crowd was singing along? A French crowd nonetheless! It’s “Marvin’s Room”!!!! You’ve got to go all the way! Later, Drake went into an impressive period of audience shout outs: “Shout out to the man walking down the stairs in sunglasses. Don’t fall;” “Guy with ‘I was in Miami, Bitch” T-shirt;” “Tattoo picture on a t-shirt” (which I assume was referring to the infamous girl who got a Drake tattoo on her forehead). Drizzy told us, “Paris you look beautiful tonight,” and in that moment his statement seemed so believable, not at all like a typical concert trope. When he reached “The Motto” (after a performance of “Practice” that was like the music video times twenty), Drizzy finished the song with a Cat Daddy/wheelchair dance move. A reference to Degrassi? I think yes.
He ended the show with a thoughtful speech about rapper longevity, discussing the reality of a rap career. I was moved and for once didn’t feel the need for an encore. For the Americans in the audience, it was nice to hear a famous person speak English. Yes, we speak English to each other, but hearing it in a large space over a sound system put me at ease, took me back home to New York. It was a nice breather, but it was also a bit odd, as if we were in this grass-decorated bubble of English that would pop after a few hours. He also, probably unbeknownst to him, brought the French and Americans together through his music, evidenced by the many who sang along. The big smile that spread across his face let us all see the essential Drake, regardless of our mother tongue.