The rappers kicked off a string of New York City dates on Thursday

By Nolan Feeney
August 05, 2016 at 02:42 PM EDT
Daniel Boczarski/Getty Images

What a time to be alive: Drake and Future kicked off the first of four shows at New York City’s Madison Square Garden on Thursday night with a non-stop, two-plus hour show that spanned the prolific rappers’ solo material as well as their collaborative album from last year. Here are some of the highlights:

Drake took to the skies

Hovering over arena crowds is a move usually reserved for the likes of Taylor Swift or Pink, but Drake didn’t want to let the pop stars have all the fun. “I’m tired of being up here, I want to see the people!” Drake announced as he stepped onto a small platform that ascended into the air and made a slow loop around the arena as he performed “Hold On, We’re Going Home.” Drake is no stranger to flying—he pulled a similar stunt while performing “Marvin’s Room” on a 2014 tour—but seeing him up there isn’t any less thrilling just because he’s done it before.

His light show was made for social media

Aside from a few moving platforms and screens, the set design of the Summer Sixteen tour was strikingly simple—that is, until you looked up at array of balloon-like lights hanging over the audience. They didn’t really do much during the first portion of Drake’s set, but once he got into “Hotline Bling,” the fixtures bathed the entire arena in pink light and started dropping and rising to the music in one of the evening’s many photo-ops. As the night progressed, the ball lights continued to change colors and shift into new formations: a wave, a cloud, a question mark, and—the most Instagram-worthy of all—a giant glowing “6.”

Drake’s setlist was jam-packed

Some artists do not care if they don’t play all of their hits for you. Drake is not one of those artists, and you can tell just by looking at his setlist. He squeezed in more than 40 songs (including some with Future) by playing some in full and others for just a few seconds. The abridged songs didn’t suffer for their length: at no point in the show did Drake seem more on fire than when he started cycling through songs in rapid-fire mode about halfway through the pre-Future portion of his set. As he invited audiences to jump along with him during segments of his guest appearances (Big Sean’s “Blessings,” Migos’ “Versace”) and his older material (“Over,” “Up All Night”), you could feel the floor of Madison Square Garden shake.

The pacing was perfect

Earlier dates on the Summer Sixteen Tour saw Future open for Drake and then return to the stage to perform songs from their joint mixtape, What a Time to Be Alive. Recently, though, Future has been popping up in the middle of Drake’s show to perform a solo set before having Drake return for their joint songs. It’s an unconventional setup, but it works: not only does it spare the audience the awkward transition time between artists, the hand-off also keeps either set from lagging at any time. Drake didn’t seem to mind the break, either, telling the crowd upon his return, “I just went backstage and took like three shots.”

Future got a little help from his friends

Drake’s show is mostly all about Drake, but Future is a eager to spread the love. Shortly after taking the stage, Future brought out A$AP Ferg to perform their recent collaboration “New Level.” Toward the end of his set, he invited Young Thug on stage for a rendition of their 2015 hit “Best Friend.” If anyone threatened to upstage Future, though, it might have been his posse of dancers. Their memorable moves—at one point, one of them mimed swimming out to a wave and climbing on a surfboard—made them hard to look away from, even when there were literal fireworks going off behind them.

Drake devoted a section to Rihanna

Drake kept checking in on his female fans between songs, but judging by their screams, nothing made them happier than when he played someone else’s song: Rihanna’s. Shortly after Future disappeared back into the stage, Drake launched into a mini Rihanna medley that kicked off with his guest verse from “Work,” followed by a snippet of their 2011 duet “Take Care” and their recent Views collaboration, “Too Good.” It was the perfect warmup for the dancehall portion of Drake’s set, which kept energy levels high with a double-whammy of “Controlla” and “One Dance.”

He’s still going “Back to Back”

At last year’s Austin City Limits music festival—one of his final shows of 2015—Drake revealed he was thinking of retiring this Meek Mill diss track from his setlists. Good thing he changed his mind: the song prompted one of the loudest audience reactions of the night, and even though Drake relished the song’s most inflammatory lines (he pointed the mic at the audience to hear them sing, “Is that a world tour or your girl’s tour?”), its inclusion in the show proved there’s still life for the song now that the beef has faded from the headlines.

Drake aired some grievances

Speaking of beef, Drake had some choice words for local radio station Hot 97, namely: “F— Hot 97.” The station’s Ebro Darden recently aired details of a private conversation he had with Drake about Eminem, which prompted rumors of a feud and possible diss tracks. “You see they tellin’ lies on Hot 97?” Drake asked. He also told the station to fire Funkmaster Flex, who last year played what appeared to be Drake reference tracks recorded by Quentin Miller, fueling speculation about whether Drake uses Miller as a ghostwriter, as Meek Mill claimed. Both Darden and Flex responded on Twitter.

Drake had no love for curfews

During a tour stop in Dallas last month, Drake was reportedly fined $13,000 for performing past the venue’s cutoff time. He didn’t seem to fazed by the fees—he threatened to do the same thing in New York. “Do you want the short show or the long show?” he asked the crowd early in the night. “In Madison Square Garden they like to cut things short.” He didn’t seem to be joking either: Much later in the evening, Drake explained that his manager, who is also his DJ, was pressuring him in between songs to be punctual, reminding him that extra time at Madison Square Garden doesn’t come cheap. “You think I give a f—?” Drake announced. “Just charge it to my credit card!”

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