There's a rather elaborate fan theory floating around about The Weeknd. It goes deep into how his music videos, when put together, tell the tale of a man who sold his soul to the devil for fame, fortune and women. If you read a couple of the more detailed articles explaining the theory and then watch the videos in question, the theory feels somewhat believable.
And judging by the sold-out crowd on Thursday night at the large American Airlines Center in Dallas, the question of whether or not Abel Tesfaye, better known as the Weeknd, has sacrificed his eternal soul for some sweet earthly carnality is an entirely legitimate one.
Every bit the lusted-after heartthrob Justin Bieber or Harry Styles are, fans offered desperate screams from the stands.
Emerging from beneath a long catwalk in the middle of the arena floor to take his spot inside an elaborate spaceship-style set, the Weeknd opened with "Starboy," the title track of his latest blockbuster album. With billowing smoke and artful neon lighting washing over the stage and floor, you'd never guess this is the Canadian songwriter's first headlining arena tour. Throughout the well-choreographed performance, the Weeknd was nothing short of authority personified. His self-appointed "Starboy" name is a well-earned one.
Though he's living in the TMZ spotlight these days, thanks in part to a high-profile relationship with former D-FW woman Selena Gomez, the Weeknd isn't too far removed from one of the more mysterious beginnings in recent pop music history. In 2010, a then undiscovered the Weeknd anonymously posted some songs to YouTube. A few months later, his star began its ascent.
Now that he's been a festival headliner for the past five years, there's not much mystery surrounding him anymore, but judging from not only the lengthy run of smash-hit numbers from the show but also the passionate enthusiasm each one was greeted with, mystery is overrated. Up-tempo hip-hop-injected dance numbers are certainly the Weeknd's stock-in-trade, but slower moments such as soft jam "True Colors," and the '80s synth-pop vibes of "Secrets," were fine examples of keeping things fresh.
While the overall production was arena-level impressive with smoke, lights, video and that hovering spaceship, the Weeknd gave the musical aspect of the night a bump by bringing out openers Belly, 6lack (pronounced "Black") and Rae Sremmurd to perform with him. The latter saved the ubiquitous hit "Black Beatles" from its own set to play during the headliner's slot. Those three moments lent a collaborative feel and communal spirit to the night. And given the young ages of these performers, modern R&B and hip-hop are clearly in gloriously talented hands.
Triumphantly finishing out the night with perhaps his two most celebrated hits, the Grammy-nominated "Can't Feel My Face," and his encore, "The Hills," it was clear that if he really sold his soul for fame and fortune, maybe we've all been giving the devil a bad rap.