Calling occupants of interplanetary crafts: The Weeknd has a good deal for you.
Granted, he’s using it for the remainder of his Starboy: Legend of the Fall tour, but the Toronto native would probably part with his spacecraft for a fair price. It looks a little like an Imperial Class Star Destroyer, or perhaps a heavily stylized Klingon Bird of Prey, but its purpose is far more peaceful. Much like the Funkadelic Mothership, it’s intended to bring the party to multiple North American cities.
It did just that on Monday night, as a packed Rogers Place transmitted back the all the love that The Weeknd, aka Abel Makkonen Tesfaye, gave to them, and possibly more. Backed by a crack three-piece band that rocked out the stage while he moved back and forth across a catwalk, Tesfaye dropped hit after hit while his spacecraft changed shape above him, showering him in lights and teleportation beams. It was as though he was being protected by a sluggish Transformer, one addled by Valium intake.
It makes sense when you consider the bulk of Tesfaye’s music, which is melancholic and morose, tangling hopeless, late night nightclub moves with heavy drug use. His latest album, Starboy, upends the formula, adding a dollop of pop sweetness to the mix, and he makes no bones about putting the new songs first, with the first three (Starboy, Party Monster, and Reminder) concert selections also the first three numbers off the album.
He slipped in a few other Starboy tracks in and amongst some covers, including a duet with opener Nav, but audience fervour really began to spill over as he plumbed the back catalog for sonic nuggets. These are the songs that grew a considerable cult audience for the singer, and for many people are still the ones that define him. First, Tesfaye threw a slight backward glance to 2015’s Beauty Behind the Madness with Tell Your Friends, and then went all the way back to his first mix tape, 2011’s House of Balloons, pulling out crowd favourite Wicked Games. Angel was a sweet ballad that had the singer backed by little more than a guitar, while Secrets bounced to along to melodic hints cribbed from The Romantics and Tears For Fears.
The hits kept coming but it actually wasn’t a very long Weeknd at all, clocking in at around 70 minutes or slightly more, but the concert was tight and even powerful at times. Tesfaye isn’t the showiest of performers, though he’s an excellent singer and undeniably charismatic, compelling the audience with little more than gestures and the barest of theatrics; aside from the spacecraft, of course. His stage banter doesn’t exactly come across as particularly original either, so it’s for the best that he tends to just run songs together with the minimum of patter.
Opener French Montana was intent on working a party all his own, dropping bangers like Lockjaw (from Wave Gods) and Ain’t Worried About Nothin’ (from Excuse My French) among tunes from his latest release, Jungle Love. The Moroccan-born rapper had nearly as many people singing and chanting along as the headliner, so it was no surprise when The Weeknd brought him out near the end of his own set for a duet on Unforgettable.
With: French Montana, The Nav
When: Monday night
Where: Rogers Place