The Weeknd, Banks Bayou Music Center September 25, 2013
There were signs posted outside the Bayou Music Center Tuesday night that read "Tonight Show Contains Mature Content." Now, when it comes to an artist who seemingly knows no boundaries when it comes to lyrical content, a "mature content" caveat is one of the things that comes with the territory. The Weeknd, after all, is one of the few songwriters who rivals Kanye in the "did he really just say that?" category.
That said, it was a weird sign to have posted up on the doors. It's the type of sign that gets the mind turning, half to wonder how mature things might get, and half to worry if this is going to be one of those shows where tits and ass are the smoke and mirrors used to distract from an underwhelming live show.
Whatever expectations might have been set, the show itself was something almost completely different. The Weeknd may write songs focusing more on lust than love and the dark side of romance, and while Kiss Land may in fact be a dark place, live the man knows how to have a good time.
On a broad level, the show challenges expectations about just how people perceive Abel Tesfaye. On record his music is unflinchingly dark; sensual, but in a very melancholy sort of way. There's a good chance if a song by The Weeknd defines your relationship, that relationship has issues. Yet as he made his way across the stage he was all smiles and dance moves, completely at ease. The bulk of the stage was clear, giving him ample room to maneuver and making it clear he's the star, yet he stopped multiple times to mention his band by their names, which is a heck of lot more than a lot of artists do.
The show also takes fans on a trip to Kiss Land -- the location also serves as the name of his new album -- which is basically a seedy version of Tokyo straight out of Enter the Void, drug use, neon lights, naked girls and all. For an album that's only been out a few weeks, the crowd seemed to know all the new material, and Abel and his crew delivered powerful versions of that new material, including a damn near apocalyptic version of "Pretty" and a banging version of "Belong to the World."
But it was the classics that got the crowd singing the loudest. "Glass Table Girls" is a lot more funky and energetic live, and damn near everyone in the building knew the words to "Remember You." Across the board, new songs and old, Abel's voice was rock solid, hitting all the notes and even singing his crowd instructions a few times.
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For a guy who wasn't even doing shows two and a half years ago, he's developed in to quite the showman, knowing exactly how to play the crowd without it coming off as forced or corny.
As for that mature-content warning, well, that was just a fancy way of letting people know he was going to sing the back half of "Kiss Land" in front of a bunch of monitors displaying two girls getting more than a little friendly with each other. The song itself ends with the repeated line, "this is nothing to relate to." He's right of course; very few of us live in Kiss Land, for better or worse.
Personal Bias: I'm digging Kiss Land way more than Nothing Was The Same, and I'm a pretty big Drake stan.
The Crowd: Lots of dresses and skirts, weed smoke, and couples acting couple-y. What I feel is an inordinate amount of folks left before the encore. I know it was 10:20 on a school night, but you could have sat through one more song.
Overheard In the Crowd: "Put it behind your ass. Yeah, like that," said a girl to her friend, giving her advice on how to dance. That was an awkward line to catch out of context at a The Weeknd show.
So How was the Opener?: Banks is hard for me to put a finger on. She moves around the stage like a seasoned pro, but when she's just standing behind the mike she's kind of cold. Her music isn't bad, but she could work on her projection a bit.
I do feel the person that yelled at her to "shut up" was overreacting a bit, but after her Lauryn Hill cover the crowd basically checked out. The set went on about ten minutes too long and the room was a bit too big for her. Also, she does this weird thing where she does squats while spinning in a circle. Our photog told me that everyone needs a special move, but I'm not sure that's the right one.
Random Notebook Dump: Is it possible to write 800 words on The Weeknd without using the word "sex" or "fuck"? Let's find out!
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