Search The Line of Best Fit
Search The Line of Best Fit
The Weeknd London Stadium 040

The Weeknd summates his stardom live in London

08 July 2023, 10:18

Superstardom doesn’t just represent mainstream taste. Those who succeed once had a pipe dream – a reason to convince fans to align with a message, a feeling, or a sound to live by.

To think that Abel Tesfaye has had a smooth ride, would be mostly right. It wasn’t all that long ago that he was a reasonably unique artist in Toronto, opposed to the spotlight, and happy with his own definition of success. He emerged out of the ether, shadowed by a mysterious ego – a formula that hasn’t been altered little by little since then.

Early hit "Can’t Feel My Face" marked a turning point, replacing explicit references to his regular themes (drugs, sex) with PG-13 insinuations; making it a song for everyone. Then comes guest verses with the likes of Ariana Grande ("Love Me Harder"), Drake ("Crew Love"), Ed Sheeran ("Dark Times"), resulting in some of the most likeable moments in his discography since the Trilogy.

The Weeknd London Stadium 029
Samir Hussein

With this momentum behind him, Tesfaye has maintained a shadowed edge amongst the pivot from cult Casanova to pop star, and his devout following continues to show up for The Weeknd in spades. His most recent album, Dawn FM, reached number one in over 10 counties while debuting at number two on the US Billboard chart, his first project to do so since 2013’s Kiss FM. Not bad going for an artist who doesn’t give much away off-screen.

In 2023, The Weeknd packages himself as something bigger than his stardom. Awash in scattered spotlights and masqueraded with a silver headpiece, on entrance he is every inch an iconoclast. Though, his inability to embody an archetype beyond treating it as a costume is tedious. From the opening notes of "Sacrifice", played tonight at London Stadium, Tesfaye is met with a rapture of screams while he sets out the scalable approach to stage production and its highly choreographed counterparts. Addressing the crowd for the first time, he asks who has been a fan since the early days – acknowledging 2011, 2015, and 2020 as separate entities.

The Weeknd London Stadium 023
Samir Hussein

This detachment to character has been lurking for a while. “I’m going through a cathartic path right now. It’s getting to a place and time where I’m getting ready to close the Weeknd chapter,” Tesfaye told W Magazine. “I’ll still make music, maybe as Abel, maybe as The Weeknd. But I still want to kill The Weeknd. And I will. Eventually. I’m definitely trying to shed that skin and be reborn.”

While the trailer for The Idol is projected onto huge LED screens pre-show, his two characters are not alike, and present an identity crisis in becoming more. Slipping into the guise of leader Tedros in the HBO drama, his character, intended to be a dark, infamous figure ends up feeling self-serious; placing itself on a pedestal but crumbling under the pressure. The Weeknd won't be the last pop star who places himself before the camera in the pursuit of glory, but given the power of the pop star, it begs the question, is anything ever enough?

The Weeknd London Stadium 048
Samir Hussein

At a time when artists are striving to immerse their fans, The Weeknd comes out on top. Each transition into the next track is seamless as he flows between "Out of Time", "I Feel It Coming" and "Die For You", but it’s hard to understand the testament when its star feels one step removed. There’s no denying that Tesfaye is a force and captivates with his smooth falsetto, but as The Weeknd, he is on a collision course. This moment could be his last hurrah.


Take My Breath
How Do I Make You Love Me?
Can't Feel My Face
Lost in the Fire
The Hills
Kiss Land
Crew Love
House of Balloons
Low Life
Party Monster
After Hours
Out Of Time
I Feel It Coming
Die for You
Is There Someone Else?
I Was Never There
Wicked Games
Call Out My Name
The Knowing
High For This
The Morning
Save Your Tears
Less Than Zero
Blinding Lights
Tears in the Rain

Share article

Get the Best Fit take on the week in music direct to your inbox every Friday

Read next