How Drake got his giant CN Tower replica from Las Vegas to Toronto

Eric Pearce and his team had about three weeks to turn a big idea into a towering set piece.

Las Vegas team worked for 3 weeks round the clock to get it built

Toronto rapper Drake recreated his famed album cover for Views Monday night atop a replica CN Tower. The set was built over three weeks in Las Vegas and shipped to Toronto piece by piece in five tractor-trailers for OVO Fest. (mr.jobeezy/champagnepapi/Instagram)

Under a gigantic, glowing replica of his beloved CN Tower, rapper Drake told the Toronto crowd gathered at Monday's OVO Fest he had called "19 companies" to build it and they all said no.

So when Eric Pearce got the call, he too was a little skeptical it could be done.

"They came up with the concept of the design for this show rather late," said Pearce, owner of Las Vegas' Show Group Production Services (SGPS), the outfit that helped design and build the faux tower. "It's pretty large."

The cover of Drake's 2016 album, Views. (OVO Sound)

The idea stemmed from the cover of the rapper's 2016 album, Views, which features Drake perched atop the CN Tower, a moment he recreated with the replica during the show.

Pearce and his team had about three weeks to take it from design to delivery, working around the clock, seven days a week in their Las Vegas factory to build it on time. They came up with the plans on how to build it in a single weekend.

"We didn't have time to make any models. We simply looked at photographs," he said. The rapper's team, led by the U.S. production design firm GP-SK Design, provided designs and scaled reference and imagery of the tower.

Carried in 5 tractor-trailers

SGPS has handled production for Guns N' Roses, Justin Bieber and Roger Waters' The Wall tour. They've also worked with Drake on his past tours, which is why Pearce decided to say yes despite the time crunch.

It was a "very difficult" task — Pearce said a replica of that size would normally take six to eight weeks to build. The finished product took up the bulk of the stage and was clad with all of the observation deck's features, including its signature red stripe and the Edge Walk's trolley equipment.

"The scale of the set is two or three times the traditional rock and roll star set," Pearce said. The replica stood almost 16 metres high — that section of the actual tower is nearly double that height at just over 30 metres.

Once the set was built, it was tested in Las Vegas before it was shipped to Toronto for Monday's show. The tower's pieces filled up five tractor-trailers, which took a few days to get to Canada. The cargo was kept a tight secret the entire time.

"There was simply very little time for the word to spread," Pearce said.

The rapper posted what appeared to be blueprints for the set piece, with the caption 'I got big plans' the day after the concert. Eric Pearce, one of its builders, said the tower is headed back to Las Vegas for storage and is uncertain what happens to it next. (champagnepapi/Twitter)

When the tower got to the Budweiser Stage, a local crew pieced it together under the supervision of a team SGPS sent up from Las Vegas.

And now that the show's over, Pearce said it is already on its way back to Las Vegas, where it will sit in storage for now. He's unsure what happens next but knows that it is far too big for "conventional touring." 

Pearce won't say how much the tower cost to build or whether all the work was worth it for its short stint on stage.

"The economics of it are something you have to ask the client about."


Haydn Watters is a roving reporter in Ontario, mostly serving the province's local CBC Radio shows. He has worked for the CBC in Halifax, Yellowknife, Ottawa and Toronto, with stints at the politics bureau and entertainment unit. He ran an experimental one-person pop-up bureau for the CBC in Barrie, Ont. You can get in touch at haydn.watters@cbc.ca.