Written by Sieya Sims
After The Weeknd's show at the Forum in Los Angeles, Abel Tesfaye became this writer's favorite singer alive. This blog shares some impressions from the concert and discusses a special one-time performance from that night.
On December 9th, 2015, Abel Tesfaye, also known as The Weeknd, became my favorite singer alive.
A few months prior, Snapchat shared a special story for Abel’s concert in his hometown of Toronto. I watched the entire video, in awe at his impeccable performance and at the crowd’s crazy reaction. Thankfully, a few days later, I heard on the radio that he was going on tour in the U.S. to promote his new album Beauty Behind the Madness. I have been a fan of his since I was introduced to Trilogy in 2012—not as die-hard as some people, but I’ve always thought he was unique and sang about relatable topics. Securing a ticket itself was madness; I got tickets to see him at the Forum, a huge venue in LA, and it sold out within a few hours.
Fast forward to December 9th, 2015, the night of the concert. We sped to the venue in Inglewood to try to make it in time for the opening artists, but were already running pretty late. We got to the venue just after 8 PM, so we missed Travis Scott, the first performance of the night. I was disappointed that we weren’t able to catch his act, but we took our seats in the lower level just in time to watch BANKS perform. She is originally from Southern California, so a big cult-like following was attending the show. BANKS’ haunting vocals and all-black attire commanded the stage. She spent the majority of her set at a standing microphone surrounded by a flashy green light show. We could only see BANKS’ silhouette, but it was a powerful performance, especially during her hit songs “Drowning” and “Waiting Game”. She did a great job, but I was eager for Abel to come on stage. After a 45-minute set, BANKS exited.
The lights came on during the intermission and people in the audience started to scream, “TYGA!” “SCOTT!” “KYLIE!” “NICK JONAS!” During Banks’ performance, seemingly every famous person local to LA showed up in the VIP section in the middle of the floor. I prayed that the people surrounding me would not continue to comment on the star-studded VIP section throughout Abel’s performance.
But when the lights dimmed and Abel walked out on stage, a glorious light show ensued as he broke into “Real Life” from his newest album. The crowd went wild and each person immediately rose to their feet. No one cared anymore about Scott Disick and Kylie Jenner in the crowd. Abel claimed every person’s attention in the first few notes of his first song, and he kept my attention until the very end.
Abel admits in many of his songs that he is a closed off person that’s afraid of his own vulnerability, and his live performance made this apparent. The immense amount of lights and special effects throughout the show, including a huge LED backdrop that would flash every vibrant color imaginable distracted the audience from his presence. He sang inside of a cage for part of the time and then was lifted by a barely visible wire to a higher platform on the stage. During one segment of the show, fire spewed behind him. As much as they were a spectacle, these effects acted as a guard between him and the audience. His physical performance was another spectacle in its own right. He danced in a lot of the songs, emulating his idol Michael Jackson by snapping his fingers, spinning around, and jumping on his toes. He was having fun while performing, but I was a little confused on how to react, because it contrasted the subjects of his music. During his performance of upbeat songs like “I Can’t Feel My Face,” the crowd was dancing and smiling, but as I looked around I had to remember that the song is about his addiction, and we were all celebrating and having a blast. It felt weird. It almost seems like someone said to him before this tour, “you need to be a livelier and more entertaining performer,” so he put on an over-done show to seem more animated and exciting to the concertgoers. Though it seemed unnatural in the context of his songs, we had a great time.
I was most impressed by Abel’s flawless vocals. Even as he was dancing and jumping with fire spouting from all corners of the stage, he hit every note fully and perfectly. And he was really singing. There didn’t seem to be any backup tracks at all, just his voice, and he didn’t miss a beat or a note the entire evening.
The majority of his set list was from the new album Beauty Behind the Madness, which seemed to disappoint some older fans. With such a wealth of work, Abel couldn’t have fit everything into less than two hours. Though Beauty was the reason for the tour, he did perform some classics like “Crew Love,” “The Birds,” and “Wicked Games.”
The most memorable and notable moment of the evening for me personally came near the end. Typically at big shows in LA and New York, the artist will bring out guest stars on stage as a surprise. There were whisperings that maybe he would bring out Drake for “Crew Love” or Ty Dolla Sign for “Or Nah.” However, the surprise came when he sang “Prisoner” from the new album. We all thought that he was just going to stop and move on to the next song or completely skip the verse with the feature like he had done in “Dark Times,” featuring Ed Sheeran. But nope, during “Prisoner,” Lana Del Rey actually came out to perform her verse in the song. This was the first time they had performed the song live together, and the crowd roared when she walked on stage in an all-white retro outfit.
Abel has praised Lana on multiple occasions in interviews. He has even said that she is the woman that he is singing to in his songs, and vice versa. They both write about topics like drugs, sex, and emptiness, so their performance together was powerful. When Lana entered the stage with her opening line in the verse “I think I’ve been in Hollywood for too long, cause I can feel my soul burning, feel it burning slow,” it seemed like all of LA was singing with her.
The initial set finished with “The Hills,” and yet again Abel graced us with a beautiful red light and fog show. After he walked off the stage, all of our hearts sank simultaneously. Every member of the audience began screaming for him to return with an encore. The roar of the crowd was the loudest I’ve ever heard at a show— louder than the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Usher, even The Who. It was at this moment that I realized I had just seen one of the greatest singers alive perform.
After the crowd yelled for a few minutes, Abel returned and performed “Wicked Games” as the encore. When he sang “tell me you love me, even though you don’t love me” various audience members surrounding me shouted out “We do love you!” and I agreed with them. I already loved his music, and now I’m sold on his live performances as well. He still has a few performances left in the Madness Fall Tour, so if he’s coming to your city, you will not regret attending. The concert turned me from an ordinary fan to a superfan. As soon as I got home I purchased, yes, purchased each of his albums and have not turned them off since.