In his mere 17 or so months on the music block, The Weeknd, a.k.a. Abel Tesfaye, has already been there, done that. Tesfaye – a two-time Polaris Prize nominee who’s already played big fests around North America and Europe – has come a long way from his first outing last year at Toronto’s Mod Club. Indeed, the Friday night score was the hyped Weeknd show, a performer no longer shrouded in visible secrecy and mystery, where you can put a face to a name and a presence to a growing dynasty.
While the general consensus used to be “visibly nervous,” the 22-year-old has been working on his stage presence. “He doesn’t look stoned this time,” said a friend of mine who saw him at Coachella. But Tesfaye did look at ease, jumping around and crisscrossing the stage and bopping around; he’s no longer a slave to his mic stand.
Opening with “High For This,” it was sweet evening summer sounds across the board. There’s a smooth, haunting texture to Tesfaye’s voice, and you can hear the shut-up-and-let’s-fuck “Ooohs” reverberate across the field. (If you close your eyes long enough, you’d swear it was MJ: The Golden Years.) You can feel the heavy bass move through you on tracks like “Next” or fall in love even more after “The Birds (Part 1)”. During the condescend 40-minute set, Tesfaye was all business, playing all of your favourite nu-R&B standards from his trilogy mixtapes. And you can always tell the super-fans from the newly-converted when there’s a rendition of “Crew Love” – sans Drake. And an acoustic closer of “Wicked Games” was just like that cigarette after sex.