Apple Music Festival 2015: The Weeknd at the Roundhouse
“I wanna make this intimate,” declares Abel Tesfaye before his final song, breathing heavily into his microphone. The truth, though, is that this night has been “intimate” from the very beginning. Every tune, every lyric and every movement made by The Weeknd (Tesfaye’s stage name) is teeming with sensuality. But this isn’t simply the fake sexualisation found in today’s regular chart hip-hop; there is an authenticity to Tesfaye’s immersion of his audience in sexual tension that is unique in the contemporary world of live music.
During opening song Prisoner, Tesfaye settles straight into his instantly recognisable falsetto vocals, sincerely eking out every last shard of drug-infused pain from the chorus: “I’m a prisoner to my addiction.” His voice isn’t always perfectly in tune – in fact, his voice is consistently sexy more than it is consistently truthful to the notes, but this technical issue becomes negligible because of exactly that. There is still some impressive vocal work, however, with a couple of powerful high notes well-found during Tell Your Friends and regular smooth switches between his modal and exceptional falsetto range.
During the middle of the set, Tesfaye expertly maintains the attention of his audience by switching regularly between his own slow-tempo R&B sound and more upbeat pop tunes. The crowd is never left too long in one vibe, one moment swaying in a smog of captivatingly dark eroticism, the next minute bopping along to The Weeknd’s catchy collaboration with Ariana Grande, Love Me Harder, or a cover of Beyoncés Drunk in Love. It is a shame, though, that the backing vocals throughout are not live – part of an overriding sense that Tesfaye is slightly isolated on stage with his band raised almost out of sight behind him.
Nonetheless, the Canadian is enough of a solo force to get everyone in the seated section off their feet for the final few songs: “I didn’t come to London for seated audiences!”. After asking for all the house lights to be turned off, Tesfaye saves his most touchingly emotive song Wicked Games for last, carried out in almost complete darkness. When the lights flick back on, The Weeknd has disappeared, and that “intimate” tension between everyone in the room has suddenly disintegrated.
For further information about The Weeknd and future events visit here.
Apple Music Festival 2015 is on at the Roundhouse until 28th September 2015, for further information visit here.
Watch the video for Wicked Games here: