Editor’s note: On Saturday night, The Weeknd cut his set at SoFi Stadium short—very short—after about 15 minutes and three and a half songs, citing vocal problems, and leaving the 70,000 fans of the pop singer confused and disappointed. Through tears, Abel Tesfaye told the crowd that he was unable to deliver an acceptable performance, as Reuters reported. Tesfaye told the audience they will be getting their money back before exiting the stage.
“My voice went out during the first song and I’m devastated,” he wrote in a tweet afterward, then promised he will make up the gig at a new date.
This was the second sold-out show at the Inglewood stadium. LAMag’s Julius Miller was there for The Weeknd’s electrifying, 29-song Friday night set; below is a review of that performance and a look at what his fans unfortunately missed out on after the sudden end of Saturday night’s performance—but will hopefully have another chance to experience.
The last time I saw The Weeknd in concert—or any stadium performance—was in 2017. I lived in Northern Virginia, so the closest venue on Abel Tesfaye’s large-scale tour supporting Starboy was the Verizon Center, now named the Capital One Arena and likely soon to be named after another corporation.
I bought the tickets at $75 each, which required me to scrape the bottom of the barrel. After my girlfriend canceled, I brought along my friend, Kirk, who also happened to be a big fan, and we took the metro into Chinatown. As we stepped into the venue, we crawled up countless flights of stairs to reach our seats. Quite literally, we sat at the second highest seats, with dust falling from the ceiling being easier to see than the Toronto-born and raised artist, whose mysterious emergence online 13 years ago led to this, his latest stadium tour—and a wild and surprising 2021 Super Bowl Halftime performance, a role in the hit movie Uncut Gems and the record for longest-charting song in Billboard history (“Blinding Lights”).
Despite our dizzying view, Tesfaye put on a pretty good show, I think… We left the event disappointed by the nosebleeds we developed but pretty satisfied with what the man brought to the stage.
Five years on, and The Weeknd is back in town—well, now his town, as he now reportedly lives in Bel Air—to perform at SoFi Stadium. Though I was a bit turned off by these memories of my last The Weeknd stadium performance, I let that go and again invited Kirk to come along; he recently moved to L.A., and it would mark his first concert since touching down in the Southland.
We descended on the stadium, which lit up the sky with its characteristically white light—easy to mistake for a second moon. Down one ramp, then another, then some more, and we found our seats, just to the right of center stage—and what a difference this makes at a large-scale concert. The wait for his grand entrance lingered—tediously—then eventually, a string of bass rang out, shaking my chest hard. I could feel it in my breathing. Regardless of how loud this rang, the crowd seemed unbothered and erupted as the lights in Inglewood went down.
Dozens of dancers then appeared from behind the stage draped in red clothing, which hung off their bodies like curtains, suggesting the women of a torn apart, dystopian Toronto. They made their way out onto the catwalk, veiled by their garments and marching in absolute coordination.
Another roar let out, and The Weeknd took centerstage, in all black and sporting a mask. I then realized this was no longer the melancholic, sweet-voiced-but-pitch-dark artist I had seen five years ago, and far off from the mysterious and shy ethereal darkwave-inspired singer who emerged from the internet with a vivid trilogy of mixtapes 13 years ago. This is a bona fide showman now holding a crowd of 70,000 in the grasp of his hand.
Tesfaye held that grip throughout the entire show. I’m struggling to recall one second when the stadium fell silent. Every moment was strategized and directed toward full immersion; this was not simply watching a person sing and dance. At different points, flames would rise out of the catwalk and stage, eventually “igniting” a projection of the city of Toronto in flames.
With more upbeat hits like “Blinding Lights,” his belted-out vocals echoed throughout the stadium as lights painted the ceiling and crowd, in what almost felt like a rave-turned-Broadway show, what with the dancers’ choreographed routines. I was surprised to see Tesfaye cue in “Kissland” as “one for the long-time fans,” as including this song in his set was a surprise return to a great moment on an often forgotten album in his discography. Still, I sang along, quite possibly straining my voice from the passion in the process.
This continued until the end of the show, with 2016’s “I Feel It Coming” uniting attendees in an ensemble only Tesfaye could tee up. It was as good as when I first heard it live in 2017, yet the crowd seemed to be on fire whilst shouting out the lyrics to the well-aged song.
As the light from these flames flashed across The Weeknd’s face, I could see a shimmer of pure amazement at what he was pulling off. He is still the same DIY artist that drew from Siouxsie and The Banshees and Beach House to construct his brilliant debut mixtape, House of Balloons. He may now have astronomical fame, but this concert felt like he was loving the music on his latest records, and is now enjoying the hell out of performing their songs for so many fans. In touch with both reality and artistry, Tesfaye was able to put on one of the most entertaining shows I had ever witnessed—and the 32-year-old has so much ahead of him in what is already a virtuoso career.
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