The Weeknd brings the Kiss Land heat to Vancouver
At the Orpheum on Friday, September 6
Whether finally granting interviews or phoning up fans as part of a promo campaign for his forthcoming Kiss Land release, it seems Abel Tesfaye (aka Toronto R&B phenom the Weeknd) has shed his reclusive shtick. Even so, that sure wasn't his face a sold-out Orpheum was cheering at during the first verse of "Adaptation."
On the other side of a giant silk screen, Tesfaye and his three-piece band were setting up the song's simmering intro, but footage of a sallow floating head faced the audience. It was this head, with the Weeknd’s voice, that delivered lines like "Gave away our days for a little fame/Now I'll never see your face."
That turned out to be an empty threat, though. Once the curtain dropped, Tesfaye strode out and confidently drank in the audience from the stage, taking control of the night and never letting go.
This being the tour opener for his Kiss Land fall tour, and with the album dropping on Tuesday (September 10), Tesfaye spiked the early part of the set with a series of sensual new tunes. Despite the singer admitting, in a tender vibrato, "I'm always getting high, 'cause my confidence low" on "Love in the Sky", his all-smiles performance suggested he's not doing too badly. "Belong to the World" had Tesfaye manically pogoing and punching the air to a mechanized military beat while letting out gravity-defying vocals to the prerecorded harmonies of the song’s grandiose chorus.
When not repping his new record, Tesfaye toasted his debut mix tape House of Balloons with inspired and well-received run-throughs of the slinky, Siouxsie and the Banshees-sampling "House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls," and the pill-popping heartbreaker "Loft Music".
Though generally not big with banter, Tesfaye had some kind words for his West Coast fans, gushing, "I feel at home in Vancouver every fucking time I come here." The mania he stirred up inspired a failed bra toss from the balcony that landed somewhere in the fifth or sixth row. Considering that the songs in the Weeknd's catalogue allude to more than one sordid night, chances are good that it wasn’t the last bra the vocalist saw during his visit.
A massive video screen brought up images of neon city signs throughout the show, as well as a couple of odd animated cut scenes that looked like foreign fruit-juice and gum commercials. More on-topic was the flood of red-light-district–conjuring silhouettes that popped up on-screen for "What You Need".
That was pretty tame, however, compared to the erotic onslaught that was "Kiss Land".
As Tesfaye slunk around singing about drug-fuelled groupie love during the sinister synth-soaked finale, the all-ages crowd was exposed to a skin-baring scene between two sweat-glistened gals that quickly escalated from lingerie-tugging to more hard-core territory.
Toning things down slightly, Tesfaye then talked about the good life in the gauzy club cut "Live For". Though it lacked it's vocal contributions from fellow Torontonian Drake, as did a twinkling version of Drizzy's "Crew Love", the late one-two punch increased the heat in the Orpheum so much that drilling tones of the fire alarm quickly became a part of the show. The house lights briefly came on, ushering the exit of the Weeknd, but thankfully it was only a minor setback.
Returning to the stage, Tesfaye marvelled: "You guys are fucking crazy! You brought the fire department out and everything." Cocksurely, the artist called out a few back-row smokers for the hold-up, had a laugh, and introduced the retro electro-pop number "Wanderlust" with a smoky "Let's turn this bitch out."
An encore of "Tears in the Rain" and "Wicked Games" reheated things to the point where the fire alarm once again wove in and out of time with the slow-burning jams. Though he soon stamped out the night with a graceful bow, the Weeknd's West Coast weekend had only just begun; the white-hot Canadian R&B favourite keeps the flame alive tonight with a second Orpheum show.