The drums on Kiss Land are reminiscent of those on Phil Collins' "In The Air Tonight"—they sound far away. They sound like they're meant for a stadium, and after The Weeknd's Radio City performance in New York City last night, it's clear that the stadium is where he wants to be. He wants to be the guy yelling, "How y'all feeling? How many of y'all are fucked up?" to like 20,000 people. The motivation for the Kiss Land sound really doesn't make sense until you hear it live. What are initially just seven minute, somewhat-sleepy songs in your headphones become seven minutes of loud, stadium status opportunities for dude to do the air-hump move that seems to unfailingly turn up an entire crowd of 18 to 24 year-olds. He no longer wants to be hiding behind pictures of balloons, he wants to be Michael.
I arrived just as Abel took the stage. The weed smoke was thick. I knew I’d be dealing with the all too familiar subtleties of a contact after just a few minutes. I look around and I see people wearing a lot of XO shirts, shiny shit, and various leathers. There’s definitely a look. Mostly, there were a lot of couples. To be honest, I spent most of the concert feeling pity for the boyfriends who have to stand next their girl as The Weeknd sings about all the wildly inappropriate things he's going to do to her after the show. Meanwhile, people in my immediate vicinity are looking at (and probably pitying) me because I'm the lonely guy taking notes.
Abel started with some Kiss Land material, which he has openly described as music that he wrote about being on tour (the first time he got on a plane was two years ago). Now he's playing the music that he wrote about being on tour—on tour.
To be honest, I spent most of the concert feeling pity for the boyfriends who have to stand next their girl as The Weeknd sings about all the wildly inappropriate things he's going to do to her after the show. Meanwhile, people in my immediate vicinity are looking at and probably pitying me because I'm the lonely guy taking notes.
The visual theme of the entire show was basically "let's appropriate and fetishize some Asian shit." So naturally there were anime teddy bears, Japanese candy ads, and two Asian pornography stars doing pornographic things on the screen. People didn't seem to take issue with it; they mostly laughed. (Then again, people probably won't take issue with Kanye's "sweet and sour sauce" line when he goes on tour, either.) Anyway, the takeaway here is that The Weeknd loves Asian shit. But may I remind you, he'd spent his entire life in Toronto until two years ago.
He went on to do some old material, like "The Morning," which he had turned into an upbeat, neon-lit jumping anthem. What struck me at that moment was that the old, somewhat "reclusive" material sounded out of place when performed by someone who is now basically a pop star. But his new stuff sounded much more at home from the big stage than at one's laptop. The transition is real. Or maybe the all the initial mystery was calculated to put himself in the position of one day being a star, and affected shyness was never the end goal?
He wants to be a star, and his fans are there for him. They knew every word, and they screamed fairly unanimously when he asked "How many of you bought Kiss Land?"
His set ended after about an hour and fifteen minutes, after he thanked his three on-stage musicians, whose generic names sounded hilarious when spoken by someone for which a couple of days are the namesake. But I digress. Everyone seemed to get exactly what they came for—a rockstar performance of songs that would offend everyone if they weren't sung in loud melodies. Here’s to presentation.