The Weeknd at First Avenue, 6/17/12

The Weeknd at First Avenue, 6/17/12
Photo by Jen Boyles
The Weeknd
First Avenue, Minneapolis
Sunday, June 17, 2012

On record, Abel Tesfaye is a drugged-out, manipulative playboy, but Sunday at a very sold-out First Avenue show filled with a notably fashionable 18+ crowd, he seemed genuinely filled with love. To just about any musician, this was a dream audience, literally singing along with every word and unprompted to do so.

This was just about as diverse as the younger concert-going set in Minneapolis gets, filled with exotic-looking girls dressed in lingerie tops & booty shorts and guys playing good odds for some kind of night cap with them. If you looked, you could even see a few gay couples swaying nose-to-nose with the music.

This is not to say The Weeknd's updated version of R&B is romantic. Metaphorically, it is not a fulfilling lifelong relationship but rather an incredibly hot bender of a weekend with a girl from the club. Maybe two. And Tesfaye reminded us all of that when he started just after 10 p.m. with "High For This," a song about a drug-fueled one-night stand where the drugs are probably more important than the sex.

"Minneapolis! How ya'll feeling?" Tesfaye shouted into the mic, testing the crowd. "I came all the way from Toronto to sing for you tonight!" Girl-screams ripped through the crowd, a reaction often followed by smirks from the guys, but they were equally supportive, hollering and clapping as the wild-haired Tesfaye, wearing his signature T-shirt and jean vest, followed his opener with one of his strongest tracks to date. The thundering drums, crawling tempo and fury of cymbals from "The Birds" set the bar high and sounded amazing on First Ave's updated soundsystem.  And while the concert on the whole was definitely impressive, it was the best the show got. With no trouble, he launched into his part on collaborator Drake's "Crew Love" with "Rolling Stone" and 'The Zone" up next, but numerous off-key points popped up beginning with "The Party & The Afterparty."

Tesfaye's falsetto is strongest throughout his three free and very well-received mixtapes, but his performance tonight illustrated his live voice is best when he's not trying to reach the back of the room. But, reach them he did with track after track of singalong slow-jams that had everyone in attendance snapping pics, grinning, and pushing to the front of the crowded club. His hyped response to them set a unique contrast to the mysterious (and, really, genius) non-marketing marketing Tesfaye did when coming into the spotlight in 2011 and avoiding touring, interviews or any PR outside of his own website. This move matches his song themes in a way: Don't call him, he'll call you.

He was in a giving mood this night, though. Tesfaye left the audience spent after not one but two encores, ending the gig with a skeletal version of personal favorite "Wicked Games" -- one of the best makeout songs in recent memory. As the worked-up crowd spilled out into what can only be described as a flash flood, it was clear if they weren't going home soaking wet with eye-candy from the club, they were still heading home satisfied and smiling. 

Download all of The Weeknd's mixtapes free.

Personal bias: Weeknd fan since his first mixtape, and sure I'm not the only one who shamelessly belts out the lyrics in the car with the windows up.

The crowd: The fairer sex stuffed into booty shorts. The guys hoping said girls are in the mood. They are.

Overheard: "He's a Backstreet Boy for kids who take drugs and smoke."

Random notebook dump: He's got an entire room of mostly white kids singing the N word. (See: "The Birds Pt. 1")

Set list:

High For This
The Birds
Rolling Stone
Crew Love
The Zone
The Party & The Afterparty
The Knowing
The Morning
House Of Balloons/Glass Table Girls

Encore 1:

The Life Of The Party
Lonely Star
D.D. (Dirty Diana cover)
Same Old Song

Encore 2:
The Birds Part 2
Wicked Games (acoustic)

The Weeknd at First Avenue, 6/17/12

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