The hiatus ends! I’ve been away from my blog for a little while for a myriad of reasons; dissertation panic; work experience; moving down to London from university for the Easter break; applying for internships; preparing for my MA interviews this week. However I spared an evening last weekend to nip to Camden and see The Weeknd live. I’ve been a fan of The Weeknd since around February 2011, so the chance to see him live over two years later was pretty exciting, to say the least. Having bought my ticket in the pre-pre-sale back in December – yes, I’m a fan – this was a big night and I hoped with all my little heart that it didn’t disappoint.
In short, it didn’t. Abel Tesfaye came on stage about two hours after doors opened, after a set by a DJ whose name I can’t find on the internet for love or money, but who dropped enough Daft Punk, ‘Ni***s in Paris’ and Drake to get everyone in the mood. The intimate venue filled up slowly but surely, it was buzzing by the time Tesfaye walked onto the stage, in his trademark all-black get up.
With the first bars of ‘High for This,’ I felt goosebumps pop up all over my body and the magic started. The opening track from the first mixtape ‘House of Balloons’ was the perfect track to open this ninety-minute set. A sublime atmospheric rendition of ‘The Morning’ seamlessly ran into a rocked-up version of ‘The Zone,’ before Tesfaye spoke, in an almost Michael Jackson-soft voice, about how much he was enjoying the intimate gigs before he moves onto the arenas later this year. It’s amazing to think an artist who’s only released three mixtapes as free downloads is playing The O2 in only a few months.
Many are skeptical of whether, without an actual album release, Tesfaye can command 80,000 people, especially with music so atmospheric, slowed down and bass-driven. It’s on ‘The Birds Pt. 1’ that these fears are put to rest, as the arresting song booms through the room and convinces everyone there that he will do an incredible job. As if that wasn’t enough, the song immediately switched into ‘Crew Love,’ another anthemic number. It only seems natural, then, that Glastonbury have put him on The Other Stage, which has always been more intimate than Pyramid.
The only shame is that he didn’t play more. A ninety-minute set doesn’t really do justice to the three outstanding mixtapes he put out during 2011. From the last of the trilogy, ‘Echoes of Silence’, only ‘Next’ and ‘Montreal’ were performed – both beautiful songs, however I would have dropped dead then and there had he brought out his incredible cover of Dirty Diana.
Despite this, I can’t complain. This was one of the best non-festival gigs I have seen, in atmosphere and quality of performance. I was concerned Tesfaye’s intimate music wouldn’t easily translate to a live performance, but I now have complete confidence to mesmerise the Glastonbury crowd and 80,000 fans at the O2 later this year. In addition to the release of Kiss Land, his first full album, 2013 is going to be an incredible year for The Weeknd.