BY MELISSA RUGGIERI/AJC Music Scene
The Weeknd is about halfway through “Phase One” of the U.S. dates on his “Starboy: Legend of the Fall” tour, and he’s commanding this spectacle like a guy polished beyond his 27 years.
On Saturday night, the soulful pop-R&B star packed Philips Arena for a brisk set that indicated there might be some longevity to his career beyond the slinky radio fare such as “Earned It,” “Starboy” and his 2015 breakthrough smash, “Can’t Feel My Face.”
Here are some things we learned about the Canadian luminary otherwise known as Abel Tesfaye.
- His live show contains some of the most inventive staging seen in years. Looking like the hull of an Imperial Star Destroyer, the tilting piece of machinery that hovered over the catwalk where The Weeknd spent almost the entire concert was a marvel to watch. During “Party Monster,” as the singer gracefully skipped down the catwalk, which came to an icicle point midway on the arena floor, a blanket of strobe lights flashed overhead and plumes of dry ice erupted from the main stage, where The Weeknd’s three-piece band resided. Whether on bedroom slow jams such as “Angel” or “Earned It,” or a microphone-shaking “Six Feet Under,” a nonstop sensory barrage emanated from the stage, leading to a steady adrenaline buzz.
- He might possess the purest voice in (current) pop. Not only is The Weekend a cherubic-faced charmer, but he also presents his songs with sincerity. He’s often compared to Michael Jackson and for good reason – his voice is truly angelic. His sweet tones were a lovely contrast to the rapping from Belly on “Might Not,” and even though raunchiness doesn’t become him, The Weeknd can still sell a banger such as Ty Dolla Sign’s “Or Nah” with equal assurance. His cool confidence and genuine gratitude toward his fans were on display throughout the night, whether unleashing a rap-pop combo on “Reminder” or singing toward the video of himself projected above him on “Wicked Games.”
He’s an exceedingly generous host. The opening parade of acts – Atlanta’s 6lack, Palestinian-Canadian rapper Belly and Mississippi duo Rae Sremmurd – enjoyed high-profile slots before The Weeknd took the stage (and they were all significant draws on their own, as the arena was nearly packed from 7:30 p.m.). Additionally, a couple of guests popped up throughout the night – everyone’s favorite surprise performer, 2 Chainz, during Rae Sremmurd’s set and rapper Lil Uzi Vert, who bopped out to sing “XO Tour Llif3” with The Weeknd. But that wasn’t all. The Weeknd also invited his openers to return to the stage in prime time, giving them a major spotlight: Belly returned for “Might Not,” 6lack with “PRBLMS” and Rae Sremmurd to unleash “Black Beatles.” It was a commendable move by a guy who remembers it wasn’t that long ago that he was opening shows for Florence + The Machine and Justin Timberlake. Gratitude goes a long way in life.
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