For all intents and purposes, The Weeknd’s catalog is dark. So it made sense that in the hour before the doors opened at Raymond James Stadium, the skies over Tampa had turned gray and unleashed a torrent of rain and lightning, forcing stadium authorities to shut down parking and promoters to cancel Mike Dean’s opening set. . Kaytranada got its start though, and by the time the sun settled beyond the horizon, just about everyone in the supposedly sold-out stadium was in their seats (LiveNation doesn’t comment on official attendance, but it looks like there was anywhere in between. 40,000- 45,000 people there).
And with theater mist, ambient music before the show, and iridescent blue lights emitting from the massive stage at RayJay’s south end, black clouds seem to have been imported from Gotham City, covering a yellow half moon hanging over the stadium.
At 9:20 p.m., the man of the hour appeared disguised and immediately began in four pieces that foreshadowed the Synth-driven, EBM-flavored dance party that would unfold over the next 100 minutes. By the time Abel Tesfaye jumped to his 2015 hit “Can’t Feel My Face,” the audience seemed to simultaneously exhale vapes and begin gigantic vocals that lasted until the end of the night.
In the first 20 minutes of the show, it was still unclear whether or not the 32-year-old would be able to meet the gargantuan expectations of a full stadium show, but Eurythmics esque break kicked off in a “Take My Breath” then Kanye Collab. Hurricane “as 50-foot-high flames shot out from the platform and burned buildings on the stage as Tesfai rumbled into the ‘hills’.”
Tesfaye – assisted in part by jaw-dropping floodlights that were enclosed for radiation at the International Space Station – made the entire stadium from then on. This was not his first time in space.
Thursday night in Tampa marked 543 days since The Weeknd played its first – and hopefully only – Super Bowl halftime show. Supposed to have production limited by COVID-19, Tesfaye put in that performance before the Bucs historically won in the stadium.
The Homecoming genre hasn’t been lost on the Toronto-based modern pop icon.
“I wouldn’t sell the stadiums because it wasn’t for Super Bowl Tampa Bay,” he said after “Starboy.”
This morning, he wrote on Twitter: “Tampa Bay will always have a special place in my heart. If it wasn’t for this city and the love they showed me in the Super Bowl, I wouldn’t be able to make this stadium tour. Last night would go down in XO history!”
Tampa Bay will always have a special place in my heart. If it weren’t for this city and the love they showed me in the Super Bowl, I wouldn’t be able to make this stadium tour. Last night will go down in XO history! MIAMI I will come for you! pic.twitter.com/Wr1A7dQ12I
– The Weeknd August 5, 2022
Almost all of The Weeknd’s history, including deep cuts, is revisited during the 29-song stadium scene that features a giant moon glowing red, blue and white all night long, on the north end of the podium. “The Morning” and “Wicked Games” tracks from his 2011 mixtape that rocked the industry balloon housegot to play and received giant singles from The Weeknd days, along with the title track Sleeper from 2013. earth kiss and “I’ve never been there before.”Every song is an anthem when the weekend’s on stage, and Tesfaye – who has never seemed to hold his breath despite playing nearly 30 songs in less than two hours – shines as his fans flirt with psychedelic lyrics about drugs and sex and push yourself to each of the parties physical and emotional.
“Call Out My Name”, the dramatic climax of the night, found Tesfaye wide-eyed and smiling – like he’s been all night – with his arms open and playing the maestro while the entire stadium tucked away over lyrics about people falling smashing into each other despite all the justifications telling them not to So.
The crowd shouted, “You have given me rest.” “But falling in love with you was my fault.”
The darkness in The Weeknd’s material is the kind of thing that would probably make Nancy Reagan roll in her grave. There is no other pop music show where nearly 50,000 teens scream words about pussy popping (“often”), drug use and having an affair (“hills”), and violent sex (“gasoline”) at the top of their lungs.
But there has never been a pop star like Tesfaye, and his fans in Tampa have followed suit from him Straz مركز Center domestic debut (2013), to the Amalie Arena where he played in 2015 and 2017. Some may have been at home when The Weeknd played Super Bowl LV in front of a half-full stadium with cardboard slots.
There were no cardboard people in the stands on Thursday. Instead, The Weeknd did not stand in front of thousands and thousands of warm bodies and all their imperfections, all singing together.
It was strange to watch the buildings on stage burn up at certain points of the show, especially in “Faith,” where Tesfaye sings, “I feel everything from my body to my soul…when I come down it’s the loneliest thing.”
Fans of The Weeknd belong to a generation that has to do more with less than their parents did, all while navigating a world that is getting hotter and hungriest by the year. In Tampa, they live in a state where conservatives hang up prosecutors who don’t agree with them, and in a city where Nazis walk freely on the streets of downtown.
It’s a dark setting, and The Weeknd, like it or not, is the right soundtrack. But buried in his songs of drug use and feeling lost are vociferous messages of hope.
Tesfaye compiled these messages in the latter half of the show into songs about self-care (“out of time”) and tolerance (“below zero”). As he sings about his desperate need for help (“After Hours”), The Weeknd always makes time to remind fans that while the world can make them feel lonely, he would allegorically lay down his life for them. And while these fans were singing the lyrics to “Die For You,” I sensed they would do the same.
When it gets dark out there, sometimes that’s all you need to get through the night.
Make the list
How do I make you love me?
I can’t feel my face
catch my breath
Love Crew (Drake)
low life (future)
I feel it’s coming
I die for you
Is there anyone else?
I’ve never been there before
call my name
save your tears
less than zero