To say that expectations were high for The Weeknd’s concert at Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg would be a major understatement. In just over a year since Abel Tesfaye, the man responsible for this mysterious act, released the critically acclaimed House of Balloons mixtape, all sorts of praise has been heaped as far as calling him the “best musical talent since Michael Jackson.” Two mixtapes, a high profile appearance on Drake’s Take Care, and several mentions on 2011 “Best Of” lists only helped build up the hype even further.
For most people in the venue, this would be their first time seeing The Weeknd – mainly due to the fact that other than an appearance at both weekends of Coachella and a few gigs in his native Canada, there have been no opportunities. The Music Hall of Williamsburg marked the first show at a U.S. venue and the start of a tour that will take him through several major markets. Clearly more was on the line than your typical show; Tesfaye said so himself shortly into his set. “I didn’t look at it as a motherfucking gig. This is a motherfucking celebration.”
The Weeknd’s House of Balloons / Glass Table girls
The Weeknd was introduced to his audience with the same song that many people first discovered of his, as “High For This” erupted into a combination of a massive sing-a-long accompanied by screaming that you may be able to find at a Justin Bieber concert. Tesfaye was accompanied on stage by a bassist, guitarist, and drummer that injected heavy doses of rock into several of the songs, making their presence known quickly as the set-opener broke out. Not one to be overshadowed, Tesfaye quickly reasserted himself in an abbreviated cover of Michael Jackson’s ‘Dirty Diana,’ proving that his vast vocal range wasn’t limited to the studio only.
The first half of the concert featured many of The Weeknd’s most recognizable songs and was clearly winning much of the crowd over. Many of these songs, were however shortened and pasted together a little quickly. After taking a few moments declaring the gig a celebration as mentioned before, “The Party & The After Party” began. From this point on, the band allowed more time for songs to materialize and even included a few solos where you could see Tesfaye uncomfortably standing by. “The Knowing” best demonstrated some of the capabilities of this band, adding an entirely new dimension to the song and showing what they’d be able to do if they were given even more room to explore. Although they are not the specific reason the fans came out to see The Weeknd, the additional musicians on the will be a large factor in the development of this live show and provide plenty of reason to see future performances.
The show ended on a very high note as the thumping “House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls” closed the set and you could literally feel the floor shaking for an entire 7 minutes. This song (songs?) demonstrated The Weeknd’s ability to really bring down the house. It contrasted sharply with the encore after a short break from the stage, when Tesfaye returned with only the guitarist for an acoustic rendition of “Wicked Games.” For someone who only has a few live performances under his belt and was making his first appearance on stage in the New York area, Tesfaye demonstrated a great command of the crowd. It helps that most in the audience had been eagerly waiting for this show for quite some time.
So did The Weeknd live up to the hype? It certainly did not disappoint, but given how high expectations were raised it also difficult to say that it exceeded them. One thing for sure, is that just about everybody walked out into Williamsburg very satisfied on that Wednesday night and anxious to hear more.
Written by Jesse Zryb
OurVinyl | Senior Writer