After years of singer-songwriter The Weeknd churning out incredibly detailed videos and visuals to accompany his already heavily textured music, there was no doubt that his first stadium tour would be a great show.
The 32-year-old Canadian singer-songwriter, whose birth name is Abel Tesfaye, is on tour in support of two albums: 2020’s hit ‘After Hours’ and his latest, ‘Dawn FM’, released in January of This year. He masterfully blended the vibe from both records as his After Hours Til Dawn Tour hit SoFi Stadium on Friday night September 2 for the first of two sold-out shows at the Inglewood venue.
After DJs Mike Dean and Kaytranada warmed up the crowd, The Weeknd delivered a nearly two-hour set featuring 29 songs and plenty of cool effects and emotions. He kicked things off by donning a creepy flesh-colored mask that covered the top half of his face and launched into “Alone Again,” which gave way to the fiery “Gasoline.”
He stood on the massive stage, surrounded by what looked like the ruins of a once-thriving city, as around a dozen people, wrapped head to toe in red cloth and wearing black gloves, marched in tune on a long walkway. which divide the ground of the stadium. It was a bit eerie, but seemed totally in tune with the music and the fact that he’ll be debuting his own dark attraction, The Weeknd: After Hours Nightmare, at Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights event next week.
When he slowly removed the mask to reveal an excited expression on his face, the audience went crazy. Having attended previous concerts and even attended Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium, I can confidently say that this was one of the loudest audiences in recent memory. The volume of enthusiastic shouting easily rivaled every time I covered a BTS performance; the only time Justin Bieber showed up to sing at an Ariana Grande show; and one of the last One Direction sets I saw at Staples Center (now Crypto.com Arena).
It was an endlessly entertaining and hit-filled concert that kept fans on their toes, especially on the floor where they danced and pumped their fists to songs like “Can’t Feel My Face” and “Take My Breath. was part disco, part rave and an absolute party led by a charismatic performer with a smooth voice and the magical ability to make a crowded stadium feel like an intimate club gig.
The Weeknd’s revelers were continually showered with lighting that matched the feel of each track. It was a totally immersive experience as the bass shook the floors and the onstage set came to life, releasing thick black smoke during a cover of Kanye West’s “Hurricane” and going completely on fire for “The Hills.”
At times, it looked like complete, happy chaos, especially when huge bursts of fire melted the faces of those soaking in everything on the floor. As if it hadn’t been 100 degrees outside all day already, some of the hottest sections of the performance definitely roasted the crowd, and so did Tesfaye. He was sweating a storm as he ran, essentially the length of a football field, multiple times throughout the evening without missing a beat.
However, there were a few moments where he stopped to catch his breath and took time to observe the crowd. After “I Feel It Coming”, he stood on the stage in the middle of the stadium to the applause of the fans.
There weren’t many large screens that showed what was happening on stage, something that seemed intentional and kept the venue darker and forced people to watch the whole stage rather than just one screen throughout the show . But as the cameras filmed the singer and zoomed in on his expression, which was displayed on the few small screens available, I couldn’t tell if he was crying or sweating, but he was definitely in the moment. He put his hand over his heart and as his smile grew, the crowd cheered louder and louder, until it was just that one high pitched scream that made your ears ring. He broke the madness with an “Oh my God,” he said, letting out a deep sigh. “SoFi Stadium…two nights, sold out, back to back, because of you.”
And the screams resumed.
The set included a total of seven songs from “Dawn FM” and six from “After Hours” and was peppered with previous hits such as the title track from his record “Starboy” and fan favorite “Die For You”. Along with playing the mega hits – “Can’t Feel My Face” and “The Hills” – from “Beauty Behind the Madness”, he also broke out, “Often”, which drew a huge response from the audience. He also added a few songs from other artists he’s collaborated with, including “Crew Love” by Drake, “Low Life” by Future, and a bit of “Or Nah” by Ty Dolla Sign.
While the song “Less Than Zero” could have served as the perfect closer show, this crowd knew what was coming. There wasn’t really an encore, just a pause to let “Less Than Zero” take effect, before the familiar notes of the keycap intro from The Weeknd’s 80s tinted hit “Blinding Lights” n came into play. It was time to let it all go and the artist and the fans seized the opportunity, ending the evening with explosive pleasure.
The Weeknd: after hours until dawn
When: Friday, September 2
Where: SoFi Stadium, Inglewood