23 year old Abel Tesfaye was originally an unknown identity hypnotizing YouTubers the world over until 2011 when he released three mixtapes which elevated him to one of the most talked-about and buzz-worthy acts of the last five years. It’s only been 2 years since then and The Weeknd is now a fully fledged superstar. ‘Kiss Land’ came out in September and debuted at number 2 in the billboard 200. The problem with the ‘Kiss Land’ LP is synonymous to the ‘Kiss Land’ world tour. It’s impressive, and sounds good but it’s almost impossible to take seriously.
Tesfaye played a lengthy set that peaked at the nod to long time collaborator Drake by playing ‘Live For’ then the hook from ‘Crew Love’ and the generation-defining ‘Wicked Games’ which acted as his encore. His live band gave his bedroom-built sound a gusto that worked perfectly on the live stage, and people love The Weeknd. On the opener, ‘Adaptation’ he flashed into visibility for a split second lit up in the middle on a white sheet tube and the girls of the North West of England screamed for their underground crooner like they’d never screamed before. These moments were nice, but when a 23 year old asks a city how many times he can “make them cum” before using his multitude of screens to show seriously explicit Asian lesbian pornography- the fanning out becomes a little unsavoury. These streaks of seediness continue throughout the set with the occasional thrust (which is just a bit funny cos he’s a short dude) and moments where the screens act as giant mirrors for Tesfaye to look at himself and make sure his fans see him do it. That doesn’t take away from his vocal ability however; his ad-libs, his pitching and his total control of his songs are stunning. Cuts like ‘Loft Music’, ‘High For This’ and ‘Kiss Land’ are executed with stadium-worthy flawlessness and fortunately for Shuf, that was the overriding trait from the ‘Kiss Land’ experience.
The Weeknd is an inarguable success of the hypebeast generation. Fans who were intrigued by anonymity and fascinated by his homemade aesthetic were given a major label version of the product that didn’t disappoint. It’s the idea of ‘Kiss Land’ that leaves us a little dissatisfied and with a slightly bitter taste in our mouth. The idea of a world where a man who prides himself on years spent only on a laptop is unleashed to unassuming fans with themes of sex, lust and unhealthy obsession taking a forefront with absolutely no subtext. Our night in this land was one we won’t forget but there are parts we’d rather not remember.
Words: Duncan Harrison