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Living for The Weeknd: Abel Tesfaye’s Manchester Performance

25th June 2023

Words: Flora Grafton

A beautiful concoction of burning fire, a silver woman and an ex-girlfriend’s voicemail. 

4.5/5 stars.

Please note, this review is an opinion piece – everything stated is my own opinion. 

We’re often taught not to just live for the weekend, but in Abel Tesfaye’s case, I’d make every day a Weeknd. 

Crowds of over 55,000 gathered in the soaring heat on Saturday, June 10, at Manchester’s noble Ethiad Stadium to see none other than the world’s most-streamed artist: The Weeknd.

The After Hours til Dawn Tour is now venturing down its second leg – the European tour, to be exact – after the extensive tour came to a sudden holt when the R&B sensation fell ill and has to end his tour on-stage in Los Angeles. Luckily for us Brits, however, a few glimpses at the Lisbon show kept excitements extremely high and, needless to say, we were not left disappointed.

The Canadian-Ethopian artist made his UK return for the first time in over six years – last gracing us with his presence during the Starboy Tour in 2017. Since then, The Weeknd has amassed over 106 million monthly listeners on Spotify, played the 2021 Superbowl half-time show, and even earned himself the most streamed song of all time with his 2020 hit Blinding Lights. 

So, it’s fair to see The Weeknd has done rather well for himself – but did Manchester agree?

One thing I must commend the whole team on is timing. Doors opened at 4pm, and with the 30-degree heat blazing down on Manchester, those that ran through the doors over 4 hours before Abel even graced the stage weren’t left waiting too much longer than anticipated. If there’s one I cannot stand at live music is events, it’s poor time management. In this case, however, timing was impeccable. Supporting act – and possible one of the coolest men on the planet – Kaytranada began his set just before 7pm and ended at 7:45pm as scheduled, with the headline act gracing the stage at exactly 8:30pm as promised. Double brownie points for the punctuality. 

The show began with a series of dancers, dressed in white robes that covered all but their eyes, who marched down the catwalk with military timing. Upon Abel’s entrance, the crowd went WILD…all 55,000+ of them. 

The Weeknd appeared to Dawn FM to introduce the spectacle, dressed in a white suit and overcoat (of which a lucky fan received in the crowd), accompanied by an unsettling silver mask. The set consisted of a New York skyline, the infamous silver female figure that towers over both The Weeknd and the crowds, as well as the iconic inflatable moon. The production, the costumes and his entire presence filled the stadium with such an undeniable discomfort – but in the best way possible. 

The concert began swiftly and, in his true aloofness, Abel wasted no time in speaking between songs and, instead, provided a seamless sequence of his greatest hits. Some songs were performed in full – like Take My Breath and Sacrifice – while others were effortlessly mixed into one another. I can’t write this review without mentioning the iconic transition from Hurricane into The Hills – it was outstanding. Although, a word of warning for those at the barrier, be careful your eyebrows aren’t singed off…

The Weeknd’s work is personal compilation of love, drugs, homelessness, pain and sensuality. His music can be moving, disturbing, and joyous, but every song is sung with such profanity and meaning that, despite the genre, it’s so difficult not to enjoy – or, impossible, in my eyes. 

The star performed continuously for just under two hours. The set was somewhat unpredictable and meant an element of surprise remained at times. Nonetheless, all 30 songs performed are those the fans would hope to be included– including Often, Moth to A Flame, Less Than Zero, Save Your Tears and many more. 

The show is a rollercoaster of emotions: excitement, tears, joy, and passion – and that is just from the crowd’s perspective. 

The Weeknd took a minute or two to embrace the relentless cheers that soared through the stadium. Crowds even cheered “Abel”, as opposed to his stage name, in solidarity of his identity transformation. He placed a hand on his chest and scanned the entire venue – it’s easy to say that was likely his “I made it” moment. 

The show is everything you’d hope it would be and more. It’s not just a convert, it’s an entire production from start to finish – a fan feeder. My only quarrel would be ticket pricing, as one seated ticket will set you back nearly £100 each. It’s understandable to a degree with the level of production brought, however, when the likes of The 1975 charge a mere £40, it’s hard to justify such an enormous jump. 

Nevertheless, the show is unbelievable and, if possible, I cannot recommend it enough. I feel a good way to describe the feeling it leaves you with is fulfilled. 

In the words of my mother – a huge fan of Abel, actually -- The Weeknd is a small figure but a universal star. I think she’s absolutely right there. 

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