Orpheum Theater. The Weeknd. October 11. Everywhere I look, there are black tights, black dresses, black makeup, and gold studs. The ticket woman scans my barcode, and I quickly meet two green animals – the mascots of the Weeknd's new album, Kiss Land, ready to take pictures, which I make use of for an Instagram post. I proceed to the merchandise table and...What is this? Free Weeknd-brand condoms? BC would not approve. I buy a shirt, keychain, poster, and the Kiss Land disk. This is my second purchase of the album… Why? Because after the show, the Weeknd himself signed my CD. I was not just some lucky guy waiting by the tour bus either; he gave his autograph to anyone who had a hard copy CD of Kiss Land. As far as pre and post music festivities go, this guy has it completely figured out. The atmosphere, the mascots, the signing are everything you could want.
What about the performers? The first woman on stage was a DJ named Anna Lunoe, who nicely mixed popular songs with new beats. Plus, it was before the show even officially started, so there is no way I can complain about extra entertainment. As for the opener, a girl named Banks quietly graced the stage. If she were the child of two artists, it would be some combination of the Weeknd and Lana Del Ray, making for a good selection of music prior to the main performance. Her songs definitely displayed her vocal abilities. I wasn't very familiar with the material prior to the show, but she sung notes in a beautifully dark manner. She openly spoke of empowering girls with a feminine charm, whereas the man that came on stage after her usually focuses on times when women are broken, making for a nice contrast in ideas and song content between opener and main performer. For her first tour, she handles herself well, and it will be interesting to see where she goes from here. She has only one EP out and has just begun her career.
Then, the time finally arrives. A banner with a green and black logo flows down from the ceiling, hiding the stage as preparations begin. A few minutes pass, the lights go black, the banner falls to the floor, and a white box is projected as the music begins. The video of a face singing can barely be heard over the screams and chants. Finally, the face disappears, and in a tube of see-through material, Abel appears. The only thing that can hinder this moment is a microphone issue... So, of course, that is what happens. But, as he is no stranger to technical problems, he keeps his cool and the problem is fixed slowly over the duration of the song. Finally, his angelic notes reach our ears, only to be drowned out once again by hollers and mating calls.
How is his voice in real, non-mp3 form? Honestly, he sounds just like he does when I play his album on my iPod – which, if you have listened to him, is a feat in itself. Even more, he actually adds to his live versions in ways that make them much more enjoyable. The band is live, several brilliant note and inflection changes are added, and he dances in a cool and sensual manner. He doesn’t seem to run out of steam, and is able to engage the crowd brilliantly. In one of his more-popular songs, Crew Love, he had the audience sing half of the lines for him, as if he brought all of us on stage with him (and we knew every word). His use of visuals was in line with his most recent album, having many Japanese influences and sometimes straying towards the realm of overly sexual – besides the condoms, he basically showed a Japanese sex scene during one of the songs, which can either be viewed as artistic or perverted.
However, isn’t that what he’s trying to prove to the audience? He’s a man stuck between art and fame, between music and sex. Admitting something that rings very true, he sings, “this ain’t nothing to relate to.” You might think that if you were in his position, you wouldn’t choose to be so crude – but he wants you to know that being in his shoes isn’t even remotely plausible. All we can do is try to gain some sense of what it is that haunts him late at night, and why he has chosen to share his stories and struggles with us through music. Many singers fail to satisfy a live audience to the degree with which their music does; The Weeknd is not one of those people.
Images via Facebook.