The Weeknd, bloodied by the lights, at Chicago Theatre 10.14.13
Since his release of House of Balloons in 2011, The Weeknd has become one of my favorite R&B singers and most-played artists. His mix of piercing productions with a soft, high voice that can reach MJ pitches sets him apart from the game, and doubles as great working music for the late night grind.
Last night was night two of two in Weeknd's back-to-back run at the Chicago Theatre for the Kiss Land Tour — a testament to the growth the Toronto singer has seen in the past two and a half years. I was looking forward to checking out The Weeknd for the first time live, at one of my favorite venues nonetheless, to primarily hear how the monumental sound he, DannyBoyStyles, and Jason "DaHeala" Quenneville have developed would translate with their three-piece band. I had no doubt it would be a powerful experience — and indeed it was.
The Weeknd kicked off his set with "Adaptation", one of his most engaging lyrical records off Kiss Land, which was then a smooth blend into "Love In The Sky". Both were great appetizers to the first "wow" moment of the aforementioned monumental sound live: "Belong To The World". After the chilling thunderstorm intro, the Portishead-sampled drums pulsated at max. volume and combined with the reveal of The Weeknd's set — a series of over a handful of video screens that displayed neon signs in Japanese akin to the packaging of Kiss Land. I instantly felt the stage was now a city, especially as the signs popped up throughout the show and animated like video advertisements would in Tokyo (I'd imagine) or certainly Times Square.
My favorite part of the beat in "The Town" — just a sense of its big sound live.
After another "wow" moment of the breakdown in "The Town" (one of my favorite productions, in general, this year), The Weeknd kicked off the middle third of his set with classic cuts from House of Balloons. My favorite of those — the title track — featured its own twist on the transition to "Glass Table Girls" and had that same lively jump I was searching for in experiencing the music live. Shortly thereafter, however, is where I'd tab the one critique I had of the show. With the magnificent visuals from the video screens (and a curtain/silhouette draped over Weeknd for "Adaptation" that I failed to mention earlier) setting the tone, seeing The Weeknd perform these fan favorites lost a little luster with little to no visuals behind him and the band. Given the grainy, black and white theme of that project, some changes to the lights (all greyscale) and visuals similar to his music videos could have matched the monumental feel set prior.
Weeknd quickly quelled any disappointment I had in the visual presentation with a first: performing in front of a lesbian sex scene. As the "Kiss Land" title track progressed and kicked off the latter third of new hits, Weeknd simply sang at center stage as two asian girls made love to each other on the multiple video screens behind him. There was certainly an aura of shock and awe amongst the crowd mixed in with the continued vibe to the record. No doubt it was positively received and no doubt many of us were watching the video screens, rather than The Weeknd. Ha!
The set wound down on a high note, literally, as the crowd matched Weeknd's high notes on "Crew Love". No extra visuals needed for that one; there was just The Weeknd, the crowd, and the chills in the air. Next, Weeknd dedicated "Pretty" to Chicago (in the same talking voice as MJ, no less #Analysis) and drove that home by projecting himself singing it on the big screens behind him. After a fiery performance of "Wanderlust", Weeknd exited stage right, but no one in the crowd moved. In fact, the crowd started a college-style chant "We want more!" and The Weeknd and his band emerged from the darkness for an encore performance of "Wicked Games".
Things I've learned:
- The Weeknd's sound translates even more powerful than you'd expect live.
- His vocals too, he can hit the high notes like you hear on the tracks.
- The Weeknd is unabashedly pushing the envelope and his cutting-edge brand forward with a live presentation perfect for big venues. Up next: stadiums.
- In hindsight, especially knowing the artist and his attention to presentation in this case, I'm happy this was my first live experience of The Weeknd, in a venue as quality and large as the Chicago Theatre. His smaller show, without the visuals, at his previous stops in the Chi at Lincoln Hall and the LQ audio at the Congress Theater would not have done justice to the progressive sound The Weeknd continues to build on. I'll be riding out Kiss Land for some time as The Weeknd will undoubtedly build on the music and the tour. Given the detail and precise set last night, we'll definitely be in for something new next time.
The scene moments after The Weeknd outside the Chicago Theatre | Photos by: Sgt. Tibs
The Weeknd made his American television debut tonight on Jimmy Kimmel Live with the new album, Kiss Land, also impacting the other day. Above he put the spotlight on "Pretty", a song that translates especially well with the live band, namely the guitars and the drums. Notice how The Weeknd remains stationary until about three minutes in when he lets loose a little bit along with the band. I was ready for another song after this... and we might actually have that as an update, as usually JKL posts two songs. At posting time, we just have "Pretty".
I'd also like to note how I can say enough good things about Kiss Land. Since its official stream a week before the album, it's been my go to late night and work mode playlist. From beginning to end, there's not a dull moment, except for ironically the title track, which I've listened to long enough to say that one drags a little bit too long for me. Aside from that, I love the tone established from the start and the overall evolution of The Weeknd's signature sound. It really jumped to the next level and there are plenty of moments in the album that remind me of the G.O.A.T., MJ (see: "Wanderlust"). Definitely a must-cop, especially with today's announcement that he'll be signing your physical copy after every show of his ongoing tour. Here's a glimpse at what's in store.
UPDATE: As predicted, here's the second performance on JKL from The Weeknd as he went with one of his most well-known songs, and the intro track to his first mixtape, House of Balloons. I'm of course talking about "High For This".
As a bonus as well, The Weeknd candidly answered some fan questions during his AMA on Reddit earlier today. A fun scroll-thru as well.
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"High For This"
UPDATE 2: The Weeknd also performed two of my faves, both new and old: "Professional" and "Wicked Games".
The Weeknd just posted this cool video of the making of a graffiti art piece in prime pedestrian location at Six Corners in our hometown's Wicker Park neighborhood. Considering I'm a sucker for the creative process, live art, and time lapses, I thoroughly enjoyed this promo for Kiss Land. On top of that, one of my favorite cuts from the album, "Wanderlust" (the Pharrell version), acts as the audio backdrop to the quick 1.5 minute spot. Press play above and be sure to cop that Kiss Land album in one more day: September 10th.
The Weeknd unveiled two new promos for his upcoming album, Kiss Land, due out this time next week. Above, he links up with Revolt TV for an interesting new "commercial", which is done to continue his Japanese themed aesthetic and also features some rather interesting subliminal messages to keep an eye out for.
He also left a phone message to his fans as a creative way to communicate with them. He lists a phone number above and below for fans to call and possibly reach the Toronto singer. The most notable part of his message to fans is the headline: The Weeknd says he was once homeless. Catch it in the beginning as you press play below.
Can't wait til September 10th for Kiss Land? Well, you're in luck because The Weeknd just unveiled the full album for free streaming via NPR above and you can hear all 10 tracks before it hits stores. I'm looking forward to sitting down with this one, as a fan of all of the previews except ironically the title track which wore out on me pretty fast (that means "Live For" featuring Drake, "Belong To The World", and "Love In The Sky" are all *Tibs Faves.) Without further ado, press play and hear for yourself!
The 10 tracks off the upcoming album, Kiss Land, have been revealed as The Weeknd looks like he'll keep it short and sweet for September 10th. The only feature revealed thus far is Drake on the new track "Live For" that dropped this morning. We'll see if that changes, but I'm definitely down to hear Weeknd just rock the project solo. I've vibed with all of the previews except the title track ironically and from the sound of everything, I think we'll have a cohesive album from The Weeknd with Kiss Land.
The Weeknd and Drake back together again! Here's their collab that will find a home on The Weeknd's Kiss Land album dropping September 10th. "Live For" has an anthemic feel to it, with Drake not singing, but rapping a memorable verse that I was instantly a fan of. I'm a fan of the record as a whole and think fans of both T. Dot artists will certainly enjoy.
The Weeknd officially announces his next and third single off Kiss Land — "Love In The Sky". He does so by revealing the new single's cover art, continuing the Japanese theme of the previous two singles. I love the aesthetic of the Japanese culture in general (art, toys, clothes, etc.) and the presentation above is top notch. The ladies, the grainy TV screen, the colors. I actually like this theme of the last single art that I wish they went that direction with the Kiss Land album cover too. It's cool that Weeknd himself is on it, but it's also fairly generic as a result. This, right here above, isn't.
The Weeknd unveils his album cover for Kiss Land, interestingly making himself the focus after projects of not putting himself out there. Perhaps another sign of that confidence he described has grown in his first interview with Complex.
UPDATE: Kiss Land'srelease date is now set for September 10th.
Don't sleep on the new video for "Belong To The World" — probably my most played song this week since its release last Monday.
The Weeknd's first Complex cover, if I'm not mistaken. And it's a poppin' one; love the colors. Weeknd doesn't do any interviews (this being his first) so for any fan of his, the cover story is a must-read. He details the creative process with Drake on the Take Care album (plus their current friendship), his upcoming album Kiss Land being that of a horror story, admiring R. Kelly and Portishead, and more.
Weeknd samples the latter's "Machine Gun" for his new song and video "Belong To The World", which premiered on MTV today as well (seen below). Portishead's Geoff Barrow tweeted that The Weeknd didn't have permission to use the sample, however. We'll see how that plays out business-wise.
But for the song and video itself: I rock with it. I think it's stronger than the "Kiss Land" title track as the Portishead sample really adds a pulsating feel to the track. The chorus stands out... and then there's the video. It was shot in Japan by Anthony Mandler and has a cinematic intro to add to the story. In brief, I like the video a lot too and "Belong To The World" is an instant *Tibs Fav. all around. Watch it for yourselves below!