As part of his seven-date UK arena tour, Abel Tesfaye (also known as The Weeknd) descended onto Glasgow on March 10th ready to throw the biggest Friday night party in the city centre.
Although he succeeds in catering for a large arena crowd which help elevate his hits Can’t Feel My Face, I Feel It Coming and The Hills, the intimacy of Tesfaye’s style feels faintly lost on more downbeat reflective numbers which feel more catered to smaller venues like Manchester’s HMV Ritz, where he began.
Nevertheless, his attempt to make The Hydro feel like an intimate concert despite its size is a real credit to him and his charismatic, personal showmanship. Tesfaye has managed to maintain the simplicity and rawness he is renowned for, combining it with a lavish stage production which began with a looming star being projected onto the audience overhead as starboy began his set. Contrastingly, behind him stands the modest setup of a traditional instrumental band who captivate during musical interludes such as The Morning. Captivating drummer Ricky Lewis deserves a special mention, his talent shining throughout the performance.
The Weeknd’s distinctive, brooding voice is reminiscent of Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean era combined with the more sultry tones of modern day R&B. This encompasses his appeal which conjures up vibes of vibrant 70s funk with a twist. His ability to effortlessly replicate the sharp studio sound of perfectly pitched high melismatic notes with bite is truly astounding.
His support act was the equally heavy-lidded R&B artist, Bryson Tiller, who performed tracks from his album “Trapsoul”. He impressively set the smooth atmosphere before the main show, performing his generally ambient songs and drawing upon soul influences. His inclusion of some chest-thumping tracks, such as Rambo, roused the crowd with so many lovers of the tranquil R&B style in the audience.
The Weeknd’s new tour promoting his most recent album “Starboy” continues the theme of intensity in his last album; lyrically he has not strayed far from the formulaic success of “Beauty Behind the Madness”. Of course, his sound and style is so well-crafted and unique to him, it makes perfect sense to replicate this familiarity. However, we can be hopeful that his next album brings more of an evolution in theme and sound.