When Drake returned to New Orleans Friday night to play a Sprite party at the House of Blues, he was loyal to his Young Money/Cash Money label all the way. He wore a long-sleeved white T-shirt that bore the names of members of the YMCMB posse who’ve passed away, and when mentor Lil Wayne joined him onstage and announced that Tha Carter 5 drops May 5, Drake announced, “Right now we’re all about Tha Carter 5.”
The show was part of a weekend of festivities surrounding the NBA All-Star game. Lil Wayne had his own party later that night, and Rick Ross, Yo Gotti, and T.I. were among the stars playing shows around town on the weekend. Drake drew a crowd that included LeBron James and Kevin Durant, and he joked that “if anybody wants to book me, talk to my manager Kevin Hart up there,” gesturing toward the balcony.
Recently, Drake made news when he blasted Rolling Stone for bumping him from the cover in favor of the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman—a stance he subsequently backed away from—and criticized Macklemore and Kanye West in the story. But the Drake onstage Friday night didn’t mention any of the controversies. He was there for the party, bouncing from side to side of the House of Blues stage, reaching out to fans who crowded the stage a few hours earlier during fellow Torontonian PartyNextDoor’s opening set.
He was backed for the hour-long set by a two-man band on keyboards and laptops, and brought a scaled-down version of his stage production, but it wasn’t necessary. His charisma and energy were magnetic, even during a stretch when he slowed the show down to remember his days coming up in Toronto and sang part of “Hold On We’re Going Home” accompanied only by piano. He reached back to 2009 for “Successful,” and the set often felt more like celebration of his journey than an extension of his Nothing Was the Same tour, which ended late last year.
The show wasn’t quite a throwback to humbler days, though. When he performed “Versace,” cataloguing the life his music has earned him, the designer’s name came out of his mouth like a celebratory incantation, and the crowd was with him. Twice during the show an alarm went off that a fire door had been opened, but nobody moved toward the exits.