Monday, November 09, 2015

What happens when The Weeknd blows up?

The Weeknd, image courtesy PAX
It's been years since I last saw The Weeknd play at Lincoln Hall—I missed his Lollapalooza set this year since he played opposite Sir Paul—so I was curious to see how he's progressed since going from indie unknown to Billboard chart superstar selling out arenas.

He came through town Friday and I was on the fence about attending until some folks at PAX, one of the tour sponsors, reached out to see if I wanted to see the show with them. Mich had missed the Lincoln Hall show, and had since become a fan, so I decided to take them up on it. They'd created a vaporizer with The Weeknd—and I'm already a fan of their Juul e-cigarettes—so maybe I'd get one of those and get to see a cool show. I didn't get a PAX, I may just have to buckle down and buy one myself, but it did turn out they put us up in a suite at The United Center, so we definitely got the cool show.

So how has The Weeknd weathered the transition to mainstream superstar? He's done it well. Maybe a little too well for my personal tastes. The show was big, filled with gasp-inducing lighting and the like, but it didn't really feel like it truly filled the space. His songs are best when they're oppressive, and they can be so even when the instrumentation is incredibly sparse, but I just didn't feel fully engaged. So much so I actually dozed off during the center section of the set!

The final third of his performance was more of what I'd hoped the whole thing would be, and when he launched into "Can't Feel My Face" I assumed we'd hit the high point of the night. But I was wrong, and two songs later "The Hills' blew the roof off and literally melted off our collective face.

I get the feeling The Weeknd is still trying to figure out how to completely navigate the waters of being massive while still being a boundary pushing artist, and I do believe he wants to be Prince or Michael Jackson big. Friday's concert showed he's still got a ways to go in order to achieve that proper balance, but given his accomplishments in just a few short years I bet he's going to get there.


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