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Huge Sprint Center crowd joyously rocks and raps to Drake’s Summer Sixteen spectacle

Canadian rapper Aubrey Drake Graham, best known simply as Drake, pulled open his jacket to reveal a Missouri T-shirt during a previous performance at the Sprint Center.
Canadian rapper Aubrey Drake Graham, best known simply as Drake, pulled open his jacket to reveal a Missouri T-shirt during a previous performance at the Sprint Center. Special to The Star

Drake has a song called “ Legend” in which the Canadian rapper/singer boldly pronounces what his postmortem stature might be: “Oh, my God, oh, my God / If I die, I’m a legend.”

He probably hasn’t earned enough stripes yet to be called a living legend, but Drake is certainly one of the music world’s biggest and most successful stars. Saturday night, his Summer Sixteen Tour drew a sold-out crowd to the Sprint Center, a crowd of about 16,000 that was so loud and uproariously joyous, it felt and sounded twice its size.

Throughout the two-hour show, nearly everyone stood and sang/rapped along to whatever was issued from the stage by Drake and his guests, including rapper Future. The rampant enthusiasm that roiled through the arena was fed by a spectacular production.

The stage was equipped with an enormous bowed screen that projected graphics, videos and other images. The floor of the stage was equipped with consoles that rose and fell intermittently, at times beaming their own visuals, at other times giving Drake a platform to stand on. All night, flash pots, plumes of smoke and other pyrotechnics erupted onstage. He also took a ride above the crowd in a glass box that rode a track hanging from the ceiling.

Most notable, however, were the 50 dozen or so orbs that hung from the ceiling on wires, like full moons. They glowed different colors and could rise and fall, at times in synchronized manners. They added more energy and stimuli to a show that hit the ground running, loudly and swiftly.

Drake spent his time onstage cherry-picking songs from a catalog that now comprises four studio albums, an EP and several mixtapes, performing some in their entirety, packaging others in rapid-fire medleys.

Before an image of the word “Revenge” wrapped in flames, Drake opened with “Summer Sixteen,” in which he chides, among other things, upstart rappers in his native Toronto. Then came “Still Here” and “Started From the Bottom,” which elicited the first of a slew of roaring singalongs.

He shed his jacket, revealing a Missouri T-shirt (he took some flak for wearing a Kentucky Wildcats shirt at the tour opener in Austin, Texas, on Wednesday), and performed “9,” a track from his latest album, “Views.” It’s a new track, but the crowd sang along like it was a classic.

Drake’s music comes from two different places. He’s a rapper who can be snide, surly and combative with some of the best, but he’s also a songwriter with a soft, silky side. He kept those worlds separate throughout most of the show, singing the R&B ballads like “Doing It Wrong” and “Feel No Ways” back-to-back and then breaking that mood with a string of hardcore raps, including “HYFR” and “0 to 100.”

There were plenty of highlights: the long medley of hits; the favorites, like “Hotline Bling,” “The Motto,” “Controlla,” “One Dance” and his two collaborations with Rihanna: “Work” and “Too Good.”

Future was given his own stage time about an hour into the set. His Southern rap is more salacious and belligerent than Drake’s, but the crowd made the transition seamlessly, jumping into tracks like “Low Life” and “March Madness.” Future was joined on a few songs by five dancers, all dressed in white, whose moves were loosely choreographed.

Drake brought the show to a rousing close, with more favorites like “Pop Style,” “Hype,” “Know Yourself” and “Energy.” Each ignited more mania in the arena, so much so that after “Legend,” Drake delivered some earnest gratitude, calling the crowd one of his best ever.

He noted the diversity in the crowd — “all races from all places” — then issued a plea, mentioning the acts of violence that have erupted recently, asking everyone to treat one another with love and respect. It was a fitting homily and also evidence that the superstar and self-proclaimed legend has some humility within, too.

Timothy Finn: 816-234-4781, @phinnagain

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