The Weeknd is a newcomer in the R&B music industry; his debut mixtape House of Balloons recently celebrated its one-year anniversary. Hype surrounding the Toronto artist is almost unbelievable considering his lack of stage experience and radio play. Regardless, Montreal was pumped up and ready for his sold out show Friday night at Metropolis.
Abel Tesfaye is the real name of the man behind the mysterious digital albums, which are available for free on his website. He’s received praise from Pitchfork and Rolling Stone, and House of Balloons was nominated for a 2011 Polaris Music Prize. The Weeknd is known for his crooning soprano voice, which hits falsetto notes effortlessly. The real question was whether his live performance could live up to his studio material.
Approximately 2,000 people filled the venue. The doors opened at 6 p.m., but unfortunately for those standing, an average DJ mixed tracks until 9 p.m. The audience was sedated with boredom, yet still anticipated the show.
Once the DJ left the stage, the energy immediately picked up. The lights dimmed, excited shrieks vibrated throughout the room, and cell phones flew into the air, preparing to document the 22-year-old’s first steps on the stage.
Opening with “High For This,” one of his better-known songs, was a wise choice. Backed by a three-piece band, The Weeknd swayed and jumped around the stage in an attempt to win over the crowd. For an artist who has performed live very little, his effort to engage the audience was valiant, but lacked practice.
Another song that stood out in his performance was “The Zone.” His fans sang along passionately, watching black and white images of nearly naked women projected on a screen behind him.
For the song titled “Montreal,” The Weeknd aimed the mic at the audience, encouraging them to keep singing along.
His set list featured songs from all three of his mixtapes. His voice proved to be genuine, and not enhanced with studio effects. But too often, he sang incomplete sentences or avoided the lyrics altogether. However, his effort at Michael Jackson-like dancing across the stage compensated for his vocals many times.
When the beat for “The Morning” started, the crowd went insane. He also sang “The Fall,” “House Of Balloons/Glass Table Girls,” and “Loft Music.” After his performance, which didn’t seem to last as long as a typical concert, he came back out for an encore: an acoustic performance of “Wicked Games.”
The Weeknd will be back in Montreal for Osheaga in August, after a European tour and performing at Coachella. Hopefully the young artist will develop a better stage presence between now and this summer and will return to Montreal with even more hysteria than before.
Published in The Concordian, March 27th, 2012