The Weeknd in Paris

Last night was about listening again to all of the Weeknd’s tracks since I first discovered him on a Drake feature in 2012 (“Crew Love”). What a ride for the Canadian poet who is now called Starboy and features Daft Punk in his latest album! His concert in Paris this Tuesday (February, 28th) as part of the « Starboy:Legend of the Fall » tour was an event to remember.

The Weeknd – Starboy album

First, because it was a big production: the location (the AccorHotels Arena, also known in a less advertisingly shit way and more intimately as « Bercy », a Paris concert hall which welcomed the biggest artists, from Madonna to Céline Dion ), the staging with a huge neon enlightened star that seemed to take us into a different galaxy of colors for each song. And a surprising backup behind the boy of the moment : his very skilled and stylish musicians who were playing in a Metallica heavy-metal style that actually balanced perfectly Abel Tesfaye’s angelic voice. Although it was sometimes not well perceived by the audience next to us, who apparently wanted it more hip-hop and less rock, the presence of these guys (2 guitarists and 1 crazy good drummer) was essential to reflect the ambivalence that makes the Weeknd great to me : falsetto and angelic voice vs dark lyrics, radio-cut R&B tracks vs some complex mix of rock, rap and blues vibes on some other songs… The Weeknd’s music seems easy to get, but there are actually more layers to his work than it seems.

The Weeknd concert in Paris, February, 28th, AccorHotelsArena

If you listen closely to the lyrics, for example, there is often a subtext, whether it is about drugs, love or loneliness. In « Can’t Feel My Face » it is pretty obvious that it is as much about drugs (cocaine for instance that « blocks » the face) that it is about love. Many have done it before The Weeknd, but a few had such a broad commercial success based on a song basically saying « I had too much drugs… ». The Rolling Stones, maybe ? Just read and see…

And I know she’ll be the death of me, at least we’ll both be numb
And she’ll always get the best of me, the worst is yet to come
But at least we’ll both be beautiful and stay forever young
This I know, yeah, this I know
She told me, don’t worry about it
She told me, don’t worry no more
We both know we can’t go without it
She told me you’ll never be in love, oh, oh, woo
I can’t feel my face when I’m with you
But I love it, but I love it, oh
I can’t feel my face when I’m with you
But I love it, but I love it, oh

The Weeknd performing “Can’t Feel My Face” Paris, AccorHotels Arena, February, 28th

Then there is the subtle balance The Weeknd artfully maintains between selling out and keeping it in. In that aspect I do think he is a pop artist of our time, a modern Andy Warhol or more likely Jean-Michel Basquiat. (from whom he took his original crazy hairdo).
He actually has the ability to mix highly commercial tracks with subtle vibes ; to sell his face to brands like Puma and H&M while burning down a dressing room in his « Starboy » video ; to call himself « Starboy » while hiding even more his private persona, that seems closer to his former « Weeknd » character (the night, the drugs, the parties, the wandering love…). He also managed to work with the biggest artists, such as Drake, Beyoncé, Lana del Rey, Daft Punk… while keeping on pushing young talents like Lil Uzi Vert on his tour stage.
All in all, the Weeknd manages to keep it interesting by playing on several registers and by maintaining a smart ambiguity about everything he does.

The-Weeknd x Puma campaign

That is why his Paris concert was not to be missed. Not because the whole Parisian Fashion Pack, usually pretty snobish and restrained, loudly demonstrated its addiction to the artist by showing up in big groups of models, designers and influencers (it was the first day of Paris Fashion Week). Not because the opening act was more hardcore rap than needed. Not because the « Starboy », to keep it true to his new character maybe, made the audience wait about 30 minutes out there while he was doing whatever backstage…

But just because as soon as he got on the stage, the big paradoxical mix that this artist carries with him : the streets and the fame, the energy and the desperation, the impeccable looks and destroyed lyrics… Got carried out with him with such energy and generosity that it made the whole stadium crazy about him.
So unless held up by possible « Starboy » issues, The Weeknd wil surely be one of the most important music artists of the decade. That is more than the boy who « left school one weekend and never came back » could ask for …

The Weeknd, “Starboy : Legend of The Fall” Tour

Starboy, (XO – Republic Records)

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