The man behind one of most mysterious acts in the music industry made his highly anticipated New York debut last night. Abel Tesfaye, more commonly known as The Weeknd, kicked off his tour with a sold out show at Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg. Fresh off a two-weekend run at Coachella, Tesfaye delivered a compelling performance that proves all the buzz he’s been lapping up is anything but empty hype.
Backed by a three-piece band, the Toronto native and Drake protégé has a confidence about him that comes from weeks of rehearsal and the blinding support of a rapidly growing fan base. Unlike the outdoor stage at Coachella, last night’s venue—which holds a maximum capacity of 550 people—added a level of intimacy that seems almost necessary to fully appreciate Tesfaye’s deeply emotional lyrics and lavender vocals. Tesfaye gained momentum as the show progressed, and by the end of the night, his lyrics took on the form of a narrative, revealing peeping tom details about faded nights, regrettable encounters, and deep-seeded pains.
Not surprisingly, the Music Hall hosted to an eclectic mix of concertgoers, including gaggles of teenagers, self-serious music snobs, and even some middle-aged couples (okay, so that was surprising). Though at times off-key, the crowd sang along religiously with Tesfaye, who seemed to embrace, even encourage group sing-a-longs by pointing the microphone toward the crowd. He kicked off his set with the bass-heavy track “High for This”—cue spontaneous crowd combustion—before segueing into the aggressive “D.D.”, a well-executed rendition of Michael Jackson’s classic “Dirty Diana”. Tesfaye performed selected songs from each of the albums that make up his self-released trilogy, including House of Balloons hits “Glass Table Girls” and “The Morning.”
While he has every reason to be cocky—at 22-years-old, he is already on the festival circuit and his first ever tour sold out in a matter of hours—Tesfaye actually seems relatable and humble in a way that few other budding stars do. At one point during his set, he called out endearingly, “Frenchie, where you at?” pointing to rapper French Montana, who was seated in an overhead balcony. We also spotted a nonchalant A-Trak hanging out and chatting with crowd members. Before leaving the stage after an acoustic encore of “Wicked Games”—a track that revels in the dark and illicit hedonism that typifies The Weeknd’s sound—Tesfaye flung his hat into the crowd as a sign of gratitude to his fans. The unpretentious and intensely personal atmosphere of the show is something fans will come to cherish as Tesfaye inevitably moves onto larger venues.