The Weeknd's First Texas Show Lived Up To Its Hype.
There are about a million things to say about The Weeknd and Abel Tesfaye, the man behind this mysterious, fast-rising R&B entity. They've all been said before and elsewhere and they mostly center around the whole mystery aspect of Tesfaye's rise and how he cleverly manipulated the hype machine to his advantage, releasing undeniably enticing tracks, all while keeping his identity a secret, much like Alan Palomo did with Neon Indian before him.
Thing is, unlike Palomo, and, at this point, now that the mystery has been solved, Tesfaye's still keeping up with his bit. Despite the fact that he's been fully embraced, that he stepped into the spotlight to help helm Drake's Take Care and that his story has been put out there for all who care to read about, Tesfaye still likes being thought of as a mystery man. As such, at his first-ever Texas performance, which went down on Friday night at the House of Blues as part of a co-promotion between Live Nation and the increasingly impressive ScoreMore Productions (he'll hit Austin for Austin City Limits later this summer), there were no press photographers to be found in the building.
Uniformly, press access to the event was turned down. Tough to say why, but, for whatever reason, Tesfaye appears to prefer grainy cell phone photos and videos of his performances to professional ones. Which is totally OK and completely his prerogative. And maybe kind of a genius move, too. Cell phones hoisted into the air to grab a photo are a regular thing at concerts these days, but at this show, they were so prominent they were practically part of the show itself.
When Tesfaye swaggered his way onto the House of Blues stage at 10:15 on this night with his four-man backing band — and, it should be noted, without the aid of any opening act — the floor of the House of Blues was blasted with light. No, not from the LEDs placed on the stage behind Tesfaye and his crack band, but rather from the screens of the sea of cell phones being instantly and simultaneously thrust into the sky. It was a sight to be seen, to be sure — and, no doubt, a sound to be heard. In this live setting, Tesfaye, for all his limelight qualms, proved himself a confident performer and a flat-out phenomenal singer — impressive considering his coked-up falsetto delivery.
From the opening notes of “High For This,” which kicked off the night just as it does his debut and breakthrough House of Balloons mixtape, he was on point. His crowd, meanwhile, was fully transfixed — perhaps more so than I've ever before seen at a House of Blues show. Over the course of his 80-minute offering, which was broken down into three separate 25-minute sets, each of which pulled evenly from his trilogy of free 2011 releases, everyone's eyes were glued to the stage. During, before and after each song, the crowd loudly voiced their approval — most prominently at the launch of his incendiary “House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls” single.
Tesfaye made sure to reciprocate, frequently shouting out his newfound affection for Dallas — well, when he wasn't holding up on display the undergarments thrown on stage for him to keep. Indeed, the frenzy at this sold-out show was so full-tilt, it bordered on cliche. But the strong display also fully satisfied.
Friday night confirmed it: New to the scene as he may be, Tesfaye's already a full-bllown star to a significant portion of the music-obsessed population. The only remaining mystery, really, is when the rest of the world will catch on.