Reviews

The Weeknd: 26 April 2012 - Washington D.C.

Corey Beasley

The Weeknd finally debuts as a live band, affirming our greatest hopes for the R&B heroes.

The Weeknd

The Weeknd

City: Washington, D.C.
Venue: 9:30 Club
Date: 2012-04-26

I’ve never seen a crowd at DC’s famous 9:30 Club react to a performer like April 26th’s crowd reacted to The Weeknd’s Abel Tesfaye. It could be because The Weeknd is finally playing shows after an incredible year spent shrouded in equal parts success and secrecy, or it could be because the band took the stage an hour late that night and gave the crowd plenty of time to get hyped. But, really, it’s because Tesfaye and his Weeknd project have the talent and once-in-a-decade skills to inspire that kind of fervent, impassioned love in a crowd. You know, they’re loving the crew.

Tesfaye must have spent a good deal of time working out just how to transition The Weeknd from a studio-minded, headphones project to a full-throated live animal. His care and attention shows: a simple set-up, with guitar and bass and live drums, supplemented by backing tracks and a wicked light show, let The Weeknd’s songs stretch out and breathe onstage. When the beat first dropped on opener “High for This” (of course), huge strobe lights illuminated the crowd. It was an exhilarating moment, the excitement and force of The Weeknd’s meteoric rise compressed into a single, retina-searing explosion. And it only got better from there.

Tesfaye, interestingly, didn’t play the cool, detached observer in the manner of his persona on The Weeknd’s trilogy of mixtapes. He grinned the whole set through, his enthusiasm to perform bubbling over into serious, earnest gratitude -- not an emotion to be found on his records, but one more than welcome in a live setting. The crowd, especially the women on the floor, screamed and waved their arms at him to match the feeling. When the band played the beginning of “D.D.”, The Weeknd’s reinterpretation of “Dirty Diana”, the comparisons to Jacko himself made more sense than ever.

The set focused on all three parts of The Weeknd’s trilogy in equal measure, spanning the distance from early favorites like “The Morning” to later slowburners like “Outside”, the latter evidence of an interesting choice to shy away from a pure 'Greatest Hits' show in favor of one that investigated the whole of the textures explored by The Weeknd in the studio. House of Balloons (2011) closer “The Knowing”, for example, proved a surprise highlight, complete with a scorching guitar solo that would’ve made Slash tip his top hat in approval. On the other end of the spectrum, “Montreal” and “Loft Music” -- perhaps The Weeknd’s two most straightforward pop numbers and easy highlights of the project’s discography -- were strangely truncated, each cut off roughly halfway through. Here, Tesfaye seemed to be taking cues from hip-hop shows, where rappers will perform a song up to the point of its first hook before stopping. That works for hip-hop presarios who have to navigate around guest verses and repetitive structures, but The Weeknd’s songs merit a full run-through. Who wouldn’t want to hear Tesfaye croon those final strains of “Loft Music”?

Still, these are minor qualms. Drake’s presence was missed during “Crew Love” and “The Zone”, but not as much as you might think -- the performance highlighted Tesfaye’s role in anchoring both tracks. By the time he closed the show with a fantastic, spine-tingling version of “Wicked Games”, accompanied only by acoustic guitar, the crowd had gotten everything they’d come for. We wanted to see if Tesfaye and The Weeknd could possibly survive the expectations thrust upon them, if they could successfully become a live band that exists in flesh-and-blood in front of us instead of only on our car stereos or laptop speakers. If anyone in the room doubted the answer by the evening’s end, they must have kept quiet while the rest of us screamed ourselves hoarse.

Setlist:

High for This

D.D. / The Birds

Rolling Stone

Gone

Crew Love / The Zone

The Party & The After Party

Montreal

The Knowing

Outside

Loft Music

Trust Issues

The Fall

The Morning

House of Balloons / Glass Table Girls

---

Wicked Games (Acoustic)

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 Popmatters.com. All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.

rating-image