Michael Buckner | Frazer Harrison, Getty Images Now this is a collaboration that…
- Posted on Nov 2nd 2012 3:30PM by Caitlin White
Karl Walter, Getty Images
For starters, this show was a real life arena-style concert. Crowds were deemed to be dangerously large enough to demand a retinue of cops and bouncers stationed outside the elegant old theater. Inside, the extra security seemed warranted, as hordes of costumed, wound-up Weeknd fans prepared to have the Halloween weekend of their life.
Making a way through the crowd to our seats was almost impossible, as the sea of people was more of an undulating wave that swept in and out of the aisles and rows with a strangely powerful current. The opening song "Lonely Star" already had the place spell-bound, as grown men and women belted out the lyrics with the fervor of Bieber fans.
I don't really go to pop concerts, and maybe I've been spending too much time at indie-bred festivals, but I have never seen a crowd this hypnotized, this passionate, or this sure about the object of their affection. As images of women's torsos and heads flashed on the six symmetrical screens flanking Tesfaye, he commanded the crowd with a confidence that spoke volumes. Anyone writing him off as just part of Drake's crew is seriously underestimating the Weeknd.
His dark R&B is a re-imagining that can't fully be summed up in a nice new genre label, though that hasn't stopped the ever-eager-to-create-nomenclature blogosphere from dubbing it "PBR&B" because of its incorporation of indie rock elements like the Beach House sample on the track "Loft Music." When he played that song though, or the more recently released "Wicked Games," not a hint of indie could be seen in the venue.
The crowd let out ever-increasing decibels of blood-curdling screams before their favorite tracks and sang along with every lyric, not just from memory but also with rare fervor. This Canadian crooner has his finger on some sort of pulse, and it is one that beats with a rapid thump. This was the kind of show where strobe lights abounded, where standing on your chair didn't seem juvenile, and singing the lyrics aloud was almost mandatory.
Spider-web like smoke and light beams encased the Gothic architecture, which melded into the overhanging golden gilded balcony, all under the simulated night sky complete with shining stars. Perhaps the peak moment was reached near the end when Tesfaye busted out his crowd favorite "House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls," a club-banger that samples a weird '80s lick from "Happy House" by Siouxsie and the Banshees.
All three of his New York shows were sold-out, and the Weeknd took a moment to thank the crowd for this borough-wide unanimous stamp of approval. "Three shows back to back to back! You guys show me so much love, this is the first time I've ever done this," he said breathlessly toward the end of the show, reserving special praise for the Bronx by declaring the Palace Studio show "the most turnt up show in NYC!"
The Weeknd's performance certainly elicited the most excitement from any crowd I've ever encountered in New York City, and lent a new glow to the shadowy, beat-driven vibes that populate his three mixtapes, House of Balloons, Thursday and Echoes of Silence. His first full-length debut album Trilogy drops Tuesday, Nov. 13 on Universal Republic and if his stint in New York was an indication, the record will be met with rapturous response.