Abel Tesfaye, otherwise known as ‘The Weeknd’, and his Starboy Tour touched down at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center on September 17, 2017. The show was honestly one of the best I’ve ever seen.
The concert had Gucci Mane and Nav formally listed on the line-up but the celebrity appearances did not end there. Belly, a close friend and collaborator of The Weeknd, shocked the crowd by joining in on their hit song ‘Might Not’. The floor section of the crowd could have easily been an A-list nightclub. Meek Mill, PnB Rock, Ben Simmons, and even Tesfaye’s pop star girlfriend Selena Gomez were dancing and singing along during the whole show.
I’ve seen The Weeknd perform three separate times in different periods of his career. I can faithfully say that I’ve never seen the man that stood in front of me for two hours on Saturday night. This man was different: older, a little wiser, and with two new albums under his belt. Standing before us stood a wolf in sheep’s clothing. His somehow humble, yet cocky attitude, paired with his iconic vocal range, was the perfect recipe for an engrossing performance that somehow kept the attention of every single person in the packed 20,000 seat arena.
From the second the beat dropped on his opening song, the title track, ‘Starboy’, I knew we were in store for madness. That feeling lasted until the end of his encore performance, which turned out to be one of his most famous songs, ‘The Hills’.
The stage’s black, red, and white interchanging visuals and 400-foot automated spacecraft moved and changed in time to the music above the crowd, but he Weeknd himself does absolutely nothing on stage. At other shows this would cause a sleepy, and dull atmosphere where people don’t mind taking a bathroom break, updating their snap chats, or watching passively from their seat. That was not the situation at all on Saturday. The feeling inside the Wells Fargo Center was electric, and the excitement was so overwhelming it was hard not to notice. If you dropped a blindfolded person in the center of that crowd during the peak of one of The Weeknd’s classic party anthems, they might have thought it was an EDM festival. The lights show, rhythmic beats, and the dancing, it was all there right in front of us.
The Weeknd just has that “it” factor. Maybe it’s his always trendy, but somehow utterly timeless clothing choices. Perhaps it’s his moody bad boy vibe, troubled past, or the indelicate, at times scandalous, subject matter of his discography. Whatever it is, every single night, a crowd shows up for The Weeknd, and he shows up for the crowd. As smooth as this routine may seem, each performed song, word, guitar riff, drum snare, and high note, was probably practiced hundreds of times before seeing the light of day to ensure this level of quality.
A musician like The Weeknd, who gets compared to Michael Jackson as often as he does, may fold under that pressure and try to put on an extreme and theatrical performance. This could include showy wardrobe changes, every dance move imaginable and every other cheap gimmick in the book. Nevertheless, he does not do any of it. That man just stands there and sings. That is almost a lost art form at this point. No dance moves (beside a few shuffles and spins around the stag)e and the same all-black outfit the whole time, but somehow, he effortlessly puts on a show that I will vividly remember for my entire life.That is talent. That is a stage presence. You can not beg, borrow, or steal that gift from anyone.
This show made me remember how powerful a real performance can be; how authentic music that has been painstakingly crafted and slaved over by a visionary can put a listener into an emotional free fall where you feel the thoughts, feelings, and experiences that were so powerful, they became the solid foundation for some of the most impressive lyrical work out of the oversaturated hip-hop music scene. That kind of pure, holistic experience will captivate and hold a crowd of any size in a state of limbo the way nothing else can. It was beautiful.
I consider myself honored to be able to see the legend that is The Weeknd on tour for his album, Starboy. I liked seeing him before but watching this transformation paired with listening to, in my opinion, one of the best recent albums, was life changing and even motivational. This perfect night left me with only one question: do you want to go again? Girl, I’ll go again! Bonus points if you got any of the 5 Weeknd song references I made in this blog.