The Weeknd in TO
“Toronto, we’re about to get sexy for you,” The Weeknd promised a riotous Sound Academy crowd downtown Toronto on Friday, Nov. 2, as he opened his first of four consecutive nights at the venue.
Sexy, a word that perfectly captures the essence of the live performance of Abel Tesfaye (The Weeknd for the uninitiated,) as well as his body of work; three mix tapes entitled House of Balloons, Thursday and Echoes of Silence, released over the course of last year.
On these early releases, the 22- year-old delves into lyrical content overwhelmingly dominated by sex, drugs and alcohol. His newest release, “Enemy,” has the young lothario singing lines like, “I’m just trying to make you numb without a word.” Such is Weeknd’s modus operandi; slightly predatory and fully unapologetic.
Friday night’s show had an intimate feel; a stark juxtaposition to the image of an introverted, studio-driven artist the public has created for Tesfaye. On the contrary, the performance was engaging, high-energy and, above all, sexy.
After opening with “Lonely Star” and “Loft Music,” The Weeknd performed “What You Need,” “High For This” and later commanded an even more emphatic sway of the audience with “Enemy” (the tracks live debut), “Rolling Stone” and the darkly sexy “The Zone.”
House of Balloons’ melodic “Glass Table Girls,” inspired the nights’ strongest crowd reaction. The show closed with an encore of “Montreal” and “Outside.” Vocally, the Weeknd needed no improvement, his voice an intoxicating croon.
Tesfaye has famously refused to give a single interview during the rapid rise of his stardom, choosing to communicate with his fans directly via Twitter. Official posters for his Toronto shows bluntly stated that there would be no guest list, while the events’ Facebook page went even further, stating no media or cameras would be permitted.
Friday’s stage was darkly lit, adding to the shadowy, nocturnal ambience of the Weeknd’s music. Originally advertising three shows, a last-minute Monday performance was added to the bill due to overwhelming ticket sales.
Not bad considering, until the impending Nov. 13 release of Trilogy, The Weeknd has literally sold zero records.
The Toronto performances and the release of Trilogy will help to close what has been a defining year for The Weeknd.
“The Fall” concert tour kicked off in April at California’s celebrated Coachella music festival and has been selling out shows on both sides of the Atlantic ever since. All without Tesfaye giving a single press quote or asking for any monetary returns for his music.
Many have The Weeknd pegged as the “protege” of superstar Drake, but Friday’s performance shows The Weeknd is rapidly levelling the playing field between the two.
Drake isn’t Tesfaye’s only superstar fan, either. In September and October, he opened five shows on the Florence + The Machine tour.
Thanks in large part to Drake and The Weeknd alone, Toronto is having a moment of total hip-hop renaissance and getting on the map in a big way. The latter, especially, is redefining what we’ve come to accept as the necessary relationship between artist and celebrity.
“The doctor tried to get me to quit this tour early,” said Tesfaye, in one of many interactions with the crowd on Friday night. I said, ‘fuck that.’”