If there’s a fine degree of anticipation going into this one, then the scepticism is yet more acute. With tickets for tonight’s show from The Weeknd selling within the intrinsically evil innards of eBay for an arm and a leg (provided you value yours as I do mine: somewhere around the three-figure mark per estranged limb) and inauspicious news of a lamentably woeful showing in Belgium last night emanating from reports, tonight is somewhat sweetened with bitterness before the voyage eastwards has even so much as begun. As such, one may anticipate clamour and carnage before the entrance. No such stuff. Instead? An almost eerie tranquility. Like helium seeping out flatulently from inflated latex, you can almost sense the hiss of every pent-up gasp barely contained behind concertedly pursed lips.
Having debuted the live show on European soil last weekend, tonight Abel Tesfaye’s charabanc doesn’t so much roll into as steamroll through east London: suits, Chelsea boots, hi-tops, hipsters and hopsters creep the creaky floorboards of Wilton’s Music Hall, ‘The City’s Hidden Stage’ although all are swiftly united in hollering and hooting to stentorian extent the de-auto-tuned croons of opener ‘High For This’. Whether it is in Brussels or round the back of Aldgate, not a derogatory word may be uttered re: Tesfaye’s voice: it’s immaculate throughout and indeed it wipes any lingering acerbity from the tip of the tongue.
Hopscotching from House of Balloons material to that from Thursday and Echoes of Silence the general mixtape aesthetic makes perfect sense within the context of Tesfaye’s work todate, even if it belies an oh-so-scripted, or setlisted nature. Even though ‘Gone’ may roll into the gimmicky gangsta trill of Drake collabs ‘Crew Love’ and ‘The Zone’ with the heedless abandon and general attentional deficiency that made OFWGKTA shows so immediately infuriating to behold, and even if Tesfaye insincerely professes to having “to come out and do one more song for you because I love you so much” (said song being a rousingly nude ‘Wicked Games’ backed only by a sole electric guitar) he’s playing us; playing the game; bettering The Game at his own pace. Every hysterical yelp is most probably inaudible beyond his clunky in-ears anyway, but then again he’s barely visible beyond a forest of forearms and aloft smartphones. Call it a sensory tradeoff.
As he departs, rabidity descends: whether that be scraps for setlists, or squeals for semi-pro paps, or the stalking of autographs – it’s that sorta show and he’s now that kinda guy.
High For This
Life Of The Party
Same Old Song
Crew Love/The Zone
The Party & The After Party
House of Balloons