Gig review: The Weeknd at First Direct Arena, Leeds

Over-priced branded '˜XO' t-shirts, elaborate stage setups and legions of teenage fans, literally camping outside the arena to ensure a good position for the show. All the things you would expect from a Weeknd concert were delivered when Abel Tesfaye called at Leeds' First Direct Arena on Tuesday night.

An enormous lighting rig that could easily have been mistaken for a Star Wars Star Destroyer descended from the rafters. Tilting at a 45 degree angle, it continued to lower until it would appear the sold-out crowd was going to be crushed, until at the very last moment, when Tesfaye walked out from under the stage onto his catwalk. As he launched into his opening number, All I Know, he was barely audible – his voice buried under thousands of screams.

It’s been a meteoric and sudden rise for this R&B artist, who has made a dashing leap from underground electronica to mainstream success. Nonetheless, Tesfaye kept his cool and charisma as he ploughed through a 22-song set list.

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Tesfaye remained an enigmatic figure throughout the night. The between-song banter was kept to a minimum as his band segued from one hit straight into another. Although, he did take the time to remark “It’s a nice little town you got, here.” Rather than introducing his string of hits, the preferred mantra for the evening was “Make some mutha ******* noise”, to an audience that was only too happy to obey his command.

The Weeknd at First Direct Arena, Leeds. Picture: Anthony LongstaffThe Weeknd at First Direct Arena, Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff
The Weeknd at First Direct Arena, Leeds. Picture: Anthony Longstaff

His latest single, Reminder, was received every bit as rapturously as better-known hits such as Starboy and the smash-hit Earned It, during which Tesfaye unleashed the full power of his falsetto voice.

Closing his main set with the anthemic I Feel It Coming, Tesfaye concluded with a sincere thank you, not forgetting to bow down to his backing band. The three-piece band remained very much in the shadows throughout the night at the back of the stage, but did a sterling job of supporting Tesfaye as he strolled across his catwalk.

False Alarm, his first encore song, was a stomping and coarse rocker that seemed a touch tactless when compared to the rest of the set. Still, measure this against the wolf whistles and camera phones being held up to illuminate the arena, there is little doubt that few left this concert with any serious criticisms.

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