Fantasy met actuality — until it was the opposite approach round — when the Weeknd introduced his newest street present to SoFi Stadium on Friday evening.
The first of two sold-out dates at Inglewood’s huge NFL palace, Friday’s live performance got here close to the tip of the so-called After Hours Til Daybreak Tour behind the Weeknd’s most up-to-date albums: 2020’s long-teased “After Hours” and “Dawn FM,” which dropped in January with just some days’ discover. (From Los Angeles, the place the Canadian singer born Abel Tesfaye has lived half time for years, he’ll head to his hometown of Toronto for the tour’s last cease.)
But the present started with a look towards what’s subsequent for the Weeknd as actress Lily-Rose Depp — his co-star in an upcoming HBO sequence referred to as “The Idol” — appeared onstage to ship a dramatic speech in regards to the “tough year” she’d endured. Wearing a flowing white robe, a cameraman circling her intently as she spoke, Depp thanked the viewers for “your grace,” then added, “Tonight is incredibly special because I have the opportunity to introduce you to the love of my life — the man who pulled me through the darkest hours and into the light.”
Was Depp referring to the very ugly authorized battle between her father, Johnny Depp, and his ex-wife Amber Heard? Was she beating the tabloids to disclose that she and the Weeknd are in a relationship?
Or was the “Idol” workforce utilizing the tens of hundreds of would-be extras at SoFi to movie a scene for his or her TV present, during which Depp performs a troubled pop star concerned with a mysterious membership proprietor? The actress appeared to tip her hand when she requested “Tedros” — the Weeknd’s character’s title on “The Idol” — to please be a part of her onstage.
These sorts of blurred strains are central to the Weeknd’s artistic enterprise. His work since 2011, when he emerged on-line with a trilogy of shadowy mixtapes, has depicted a sex-and-drugs demimonde populated by dissolute folks residing aimless lives. But the 32-year-old is definitely considered one of music’s most meticulous record-makers, a connoisseur of Eighties pop and soul who surrounds his sweetly imploring vocals with glistening synths, chewy bass strains and slippery however propulsive grooves that may recall Michael Jackson and Depeche Mode. (As a lot a studio hound as a frontman, he made room on “Dawn FM” for a tune during which Jackson’s producer Quincy Jones monologues about his difficult life over tender, “Off the Wall”-ish funk.)
At SoFi — the place the Weeknd complemented his latest materials with oldies like “Starboy” and “Can’t Feel My Face” together with variations of Drake’s “Crew Love” and Kanye West’s “Hurricane,” each of which characteristic him — the music was each crisp and pulverizingly loud; no band was seen, although the preparations appeared to depart barely from his information. His singing carried emotion with a laser-like depth, significantly within the wistful “Out of Time” and “I Feel It Coming,” even amid the boomy environment of a stadium.
Certainly, to look at the Weeknd carry out at this stage of his profession — after his single “Blinding Lights” spent an unprecedented 90 weeks on Billboard’s Sizzling 100 — is to ponder a form of pressure of place. Practically all of his songs unfold in small, intimate areas — bedrooms, vehicles, sweaty VIP rooms — but the dimensions of his success has put him in settings geared to mass consumption: the Tremendous Bowl halftime present, which he performed in 2021, as an example, or Coachella, the place he co-headlined with Swedish Home Mafia in April.
“Look at all those people!” he stated Friday, pointing up at SoFi’s not-so-cheap seats after he thanked L.A. for supporting him since his days in “those small little venues in Hollywood.”
A powerful visible thinker earlier than he had the sources to match his ambition, the Weeknd fortunately fills that hole with spectacle. Right here the set blended bodily building (together with a large inflatable moon) and digital imagery to approximate a dystopian cityscape; a phalanx of dancers in hooded purple robes conjured a vaguely occult vibe as they moved in formation across the singer down a prolonged runway.
The Weeknd himself started his set sporting a creepy masks that made him resemble a sufferer of some botched plastic-surgery process — one more approach of toying with concepts about authenticity and phantasm. However after just some minutes he tore the masks off to disclose the grinning nihilist inside.