Before there was Drake, there was the Weeknd. Of course, this is in terms of the evening’s scheduling alone. The near-nihilistic, stoned and satisfied to the verge of anhedonia stylings of Abel Tesfaye are a direct product of Drake’s success, which itself owes much to Kanye West. But you know about all of this.
Just the week before, the Weeknd played a selectively publicized show at the Mod Club, a small Toronto venue. I wish I could’ve seen that performance. A dark, intimate space makes sense for a dark, spare album meant for one-on-one experiences, either between you and the somebody you’ll be sleeping with, or between you and the substance you’ll soon be introducing into your body.
On Sunday, the Weeknd’s audience had to fight intrusive early-evening sunlight that conflicted with the performance’s mood. Still, kudos to Tesfaye and his live band, which included guitar, bass, and drums, for translating the record well, even if an open air show at 7:30 p.m. is inappropriate for songs about fucking.
The set was short but Tesfaye’s voice is strong. That the audience couldn’t generate a quarter of the enthusiasm they showered on some of the later performers would nag only until Drake corrected the situation during a performance during his set that combined his and the Weeknd’s takes on “Trust Issues.” Then everyone gave this new talent the attention he deserves. It helped that Drake threw an arm around his fellow countryman and told the audience about how they met, about how Tesfaye has one of the best voices Drake’s ever heard. Here’s hoping we won’t have to wait much longer for those next two mixtapes.