The Weeknd, aka Abel Tesfaye, is a 21 year-old Canadian, which might not be that impressive. (Yep, article’s over, folks. I’m just going to end it right there.)
It helps that Abel, the aforementioned 21 year-old Canadian, also has a once-in-a-generation voice – the kind of head-turning falsetto that is so blindingly original, so unmistakably his own – that the atmosphere inside of Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg was palpable with excitement.
Look, fuck it, I don’t want to speak in hyperbole here, but the atmosphere inside of that place last night was practically Prince a la “Purple Rain.” To say that Abel had the crowd in the palm of his hand would be an understatement: he had them hanging on his every word. Conversation with the audience was brief and there were two noticeable off key moments but seemingly only when he let down his carefully guarded R&B persona and realized he was playing a sold out show in Brooklyn.
The audience could not have been more diverse: a cross section of white hipsters, impeccably dressed black tastemakers, and a few people quite obviously genuine R&B fans in their 30s who stumbled out of the venue with smiles so big they might nearly have fallen over with joy. This wasn’t a gig for the usual Williamsburg crowd… the only frowns I saw the whole night were on the faces of two sad-ass white kids clearly coked out of their skulls sitting at the bar – the bar! – determined not to have a good time.
I managed to find some space near the back and overheard talk of tickets being bought for $200 on the internet for this show: not exactly a cheap show. To the left were two girls dressed to the nines smelling heavily of cologne; to the right, a guy from Queens who looked not entirely unlike Danny Trejo. Up in the wings arms bounced to the basslines… arms belonging to kids who had driven hours to be there, still more belonging to Rolex watch wearing one percenters from Manhattan high rises. There were unconfirmed rumors that Drake and Jay-Z were in the crowd. It was, suffice it to say, a giant breath of fresh air for the usually arms-folded skinny jeans crowd.
To critique the actual show itself would be extremely fucking hard: it was basically the same set he did at Coachella, and he performed the songs very well, and he held the crowd shockingly well considering this was perhaps his sixth show. Critiquing this show in the classical sense wouldn’t do the energy of the room that night justice – he quite simply fucking killed it on every level. Any picture of the night will show tens of phones pointed at the stage, documenting it like some sort of collective Zapruder film of cool.
His three (four? was it just me or was there a guy on the side of the stage?) piece band added everything that the studio versions of his songs couldn’t hold. Specifically, the drummer. I’m not sure who that guy is, but he played the living shit out of those things. If anything, the band seemed a little too good considering this is so early in The Weeknd’s career.
Perhaps the best moment of the night was just before he left the stage the first time, before the first encore. The house lights were turned up slightly and Abel could see the whole crowd, and he smiled hugely, seemingly taken aback by the scores of people who had turned out to see him. It was a smile that you couldn’t fake. It was not dissimilar to the smiles of the people leaving the show.