Pulsating stage lights followed the wall of sparkling synths surrounding the 32-year-old multihyphenate as he opened with the plaintive “Alone Again” from his character-driven 2020 album, “After Hours.” He wore a plastic mask, but his smooth, marble voice carved timeless idols of desire, despair and alienation.
Last year, the Weeknd celebrated the 10th anniversary of his influential first mixtape, “House of Balloons” – with its brooding bass lines and despondent lyrics – marking the beginning of his impact on contemporary R&B and pop music.
In 2012, Abel Tesfaye, aka The Weeknd, signed a deal with Republic Records and later compiled his first three mixtapes into one album, “Trilogy.” Her debut studio album, 2013’s “Kiss Land,” felt less like a debut album and more like the liminal space of an expanding soundscape – a confused, darkwave exploration in search of something more. Her second hit album, 2015’s “Beauty Behind the Madness”, debuted at No. 1 with hits such as “Can’t Feel My Face” and “The Hills”. With “Starboy” (2016), he developed a more distinct stage persona with clear visual and sound direction. It crystallized with the hit of 2019 “blinding lights», the single « After Hours » and its vertiginous exhalation of synths inspired by the 80s and athletic voices.
As his musical palette broadens, Weeknd’s cinematic inclinations also increase. It was only fitting that his sold-out show would feel theatrical on full screen, featuring himself as the main man and ominously veiled background dancers like some sort of Greek chorus haunting his journey. His scene was reminiscent of the movie poster of “Metropolis.”
With Weeknd’s energy and magnetism, the nearly two-hour set felt well-paced. The flames that sprang from the side of the stage added a Dante “Inferno” feel to “The Hills”. A smooth transition from slinky (“Out of Time”) to bubbly (“I Feel It Coming”) kept the groove non-stop and euphoric. Closing with “Blinding Lights” (as beams of light pierced the clouds and provided wrist lamps in the audience flashed), the Weeknd shone through it all.