It was Weeknd Wednesday in Vancouver last night.
There wast a single empty seat to be seen at a packed Rogers Arena as The Weeknd returned to Vancouver for The Madness Fall Tour. And to those fans, the beloved Abel Tesfaye delivered.
From the humble beginnings of Scarborough, Ontario – shout out to my old hood – Tesfaye has evolved from an anonymous producer into one of the most recognized names in music today. Whether you consider him a hip hop artist, or R&B, or even pop, The Weeknd’s music is beyond genres – it is about the beats, his talent, lyrics, and unmistakable soulful voice.
It is that voice that filled the Arena from floor seats all the way to the last row of the 300 level, as Tesfaye serenaded us from the start to the end of his incredible 21 song set. With the release of Beauty Behind the Madness earlier this year, The Weeknd had a lot of material to work with, including his 2013 success Kiss Land and earlier mixtapes.
But before Tesfaye took the stage, openers Travis Scott and Halsey warmed up the crowd. American rapper Scott – who played his own sold-out show later at Celebrities – is known for his wild shows. But in a barely filled Arena, Scott seemed to miss his mark. With a desert backdrop, perhaps a homage to his recent debut album Rodeo, Scott performed a 30-minute set in a Toronto Raptors jersey. “This is the Madness Tour,” he said to the crowd twice. “Just because you have seats, doesn’t mean you have to sit in them.” He jumped off the stage to perform in the crowd for a few minutes, before ending with his single “Antidote”.
The stage was cleared of its desert, and Halsey soon jumped on – stealing the opener spotlight. With her second show in about a month, recently selling out The Rio Theatre, Halsey is proving to be the next “it girl” in the scene. Her electro-pop style and seductive voice was almost out of place at a Weeknd concert, but the majority female millennial crowd dug her sound. Halsey performed her set, which included “Colors”, “Ghost”, and “New Americana”, at ease, proving her ability to hold down an Arena crowd – which is where she will end up headlining in the near future.
And it wasn’t too long ago when The Weeknd was in that exact spot in his own career. From small clubs, to medium sized venues, and now a sold-out Arena, 25-year-old Tesfaye himself acknowledged his own growth. “Every time I come here, the venue gets bigger and bigger,” he said. Tesfaye, who played at FVDED In The Park this summer, had an almost completely new setlist to play. On an elevating stage, he began his set in a flashy, colourful, graphic-filled cage, with his band of three behind him.
Starting off with “Real Life,” the setlist went from hot to “lit” in no time. With “Acquainted, Often”, and “High For This”, all back to back, fans – especially fan girls- screamed the lyrics word for word. Although the visuals were stunning, it was the Toronto singer who stole the show. From his Michael Jackson-inspired moves, to his versatility owning his power ballads (“Shameless”, “Dark Times”) as well as his number one club bangers (“In the Night”, “Can’t Feel My Face”), Tesfaye was born for the stage. Throughout the evening, tracks were almost flawless as The Weeknd transported us all into the peak of Madness. Especially as he closed with blasting flames and fireworks during “The Hills”, when girls’ screams reached a point where we could barely hear him sing. His glowing encore “Wicked Games” was haunting, and showcased his soulful voice once more before he existed the stage.
“Tonight we’re celebrating XO,” Tesfaye said during his set, referring to his label. And a grand celebration it was, because this Canadian is redefining genres, taking over global charts, and selling out arenas world wide. On Wednesday night, we celebrated the Weeknd. So XO right back at you, Abel.