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October 5th, 2011
The mixtape has always been a cornerstone in hip hop music, often used to create buzz for an artist as well as provide emcees with the creative space and freedom for artistic expression. Its resurgence in recent years has been brought on by the success stories of artists like Drake and J.Cole, but it has also served as a key element to the revival of the R&B movement. Case-in-point, Toronto-native Abel Tesfaye, who shocked the interwebs and music industry back in March with his brand of sultry, darkly twisted and gorgeous R&B tunes that arrived in the form of the little mixtape that could called House of Balloons. Since then, he hasn’t turned back.
Fresh off of his Polaris Prize nomination and the successful release of his second mixtape, Thursday, Abel the R&B singer (and full time seducer of all of humanity), more commonly known as The Weeknd, embarked on his first pair of shows outside of Toronto this past weekend. Performing in London, ON on a cool October night, Abel demonstrated throughout his hour-long set that he is very much worthy of your undivided attention.
There’s been a significant amount of growth in The Weeknd’s performance since his last live appearance that took place at Drake’s OVO Festival, which was criticized due to the artist’s lack of stage presence. In the case of Sunday’s show, it would be near impossible to find any evidence to support such a claim.
When Abel made his way to the stage tucked into his Adidas track jacket and launched into a performance of his most commercial hit, High For This, you could practically feel yourself submitting to the complex, enticing world that The Weeknd depicts. Once you’re in, it’s hard to get out.
Some argue that House of Balloons is a cohesively better listen than Thursday, but the latter contains individual pieces that almost make the former look like child’s play. Interestingly, the setlist reflected this. Favourites like Wicked Games, What You Need and Thursday were all performed to perfection, but it was when The Weeknd returned for a 15-minute encore that really proved that he is a must watch as an artist and a performer.
Wrapping the show up with the biggest tracks off of Thursday including The Birds Part I, Part II, and The Zone, he reached new heights in his live show, which demonstrated a greater confidence in his step as he jumped from one side of the stage to the other, his band equally committed to deliver an ending that would make us continue to crave all things XO.
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