The two acts fared differently at Lafayette College’s 2017 spring concert in Easton.
Lafayette College wanted the hits.
At the school’s spring concert Saturday night (open to the public for a price, and free for Lafayette students), the cheery singer/rapper D.R.A.M. and the rising pop star Daya faced a restless crowd in the Kirby Sports Center eager to hear the artists’ biggest songs.
The attendees waiting for D.R.A.M.’s singles “Broccoli” and “Cha Cha” seemed not to expect — or much appreciate — his penchant for slow jams. The Virginia songsmith, whose stage name stands for “Does Real Ass Music,” kicked off the set by showing off his pipes on his self-affirming album-opener “Get It Myself.”
While his first few numbers were plagued by technical difficulties, D.R.A.M (who was born Shelley Massenburg-Smith) soldiered through the issues with energy and charisma. Wearing a hoodie and and one of the most infectious smiles in the business, D.R.A.M. gave it his all through the boppy “Cute” and the funky “Outta Sight.” Erykah Badu once described D.R.A.M. as the lovechild of George Clinton, Ol’ Dirty Bastard and D’Angelo, and that reputation was on full display.
But his charm and vocal chops couldn’t convince much of a chittering, dwindling audience to appreciate his more soulful tracks, including a suite of smooth slow-burners dedicated to his hometown of Hampton, Va. (One impatient concertgoer even tried to start a “F— D.R.A.M.” chant, but was mercifully unsuccessful.)
It wasn’t until he launched into a full-throated sermon to introduce “Cash Machine,” his gleeful ode to solvency, that D.R.A.M. truly won the crowd over. He followed that by rewarding those who’d stuck around with his breakout song “Cha Cha” (which Drake later adapted into the smash “Hotline Bling”), shimmying with dreads swinging, all the while.
Still, toward the show’s end, the audience, desperate for the chart-topper “Broccoli,” was barely willing to indulge a leisurely rendition of “D.R.A.M. Sings Special” from Chance the Rapper’s popular 2016 release “Coloring Book” — especially since D.R.A.M. claimed it would be night’s the last song.
After briefly leaving the stage, D.R.A.M. returned to admit, “Ah yes, we do have one more song, don’t we?” D.R.A.M. led into his biggest hit by first turning its ribald hook into a tongue-in-cheek ballad, and then gave the crowd exactly what it wanted all along: A buoyant, jubilant “Broccoli,” complete with D.R.A.M. crowd-surfing.
Daya, who went on before D.R.A.M., paced her set more to the hit-craving audience’s liking. Backed by an all-female band, the Pennsylvania native, in pinstripe pants and a yellow and black crop-top, began with the album cuts “Dare,” “ICYMI” and “Got the Feeling.”
These lesser-known tracks managed to keep the audience’s attention with their electronic pulse, stadium-worthy drums and sugary hooks. But the set took off only a few songs in, when Daya busted out her platinum-selling “Hide Away” for an all-out singalong. She cooled things down with a pair of softer tracks, to less-than-rapt reception: When she encouraged her fans to wave their phone lights along to a song, only a smattering obliged, and only briefly.
It wasn’t long before she had the room back on her side. “Feel Good,” the singer’s new collaboration with Gryffin and Illenium, had the floor moving with a huge drop; “Don’t Let Me Down,” the massively popular and Grammy-winning Chainsmokers song featuring Daya’s vocals, brought the house down.
Daya is a crowd-pleaser, and this crowd was anxious to be pleased.