Frontier Psychiatrist

Truth In Lies: The Weeknd Live in Chicago @ Lincoln Hall

Posted on: May 7, 2012

The Weeknd at Lincoln Hall in Chicago

Abel Tesfaye is undoubtedly a star in the making. His commitment to quality and character is apparent on all of his free releases. The ongoing question around his art deal with his reality: if these are actually his Thursdays or if he’s just an excellent, disturbed storyteller. If his show revealed anything, it’s that he’s fucking pumped to be doing this well this young. While Abel’s giddiness on stage seems at odds with his recorded melancholy, it also suggests a complexity beyond his deranged, masochistic persona.

On his first-ever tour, 22-year-old Abel Tesfaye (aka The Weeknd) celebrated his sensational success in the biggest U.S. and Canada markets, announced less than a month ago. Each show sold out in seconds despite a lack of promotion, much like his records would, should he have decided to sell them. Fans were content to pay the $30+ fees ticket price, disregarding his lack of performing experience and opener: they knew this would likely be a rare opportunity to see the potential superstar in such an intimate space. He delivered.

With a three-piece backing band (and several loops), The Weeknd brought his dead-eyed, designer drug anthems from his three phenomenal “mixtapes” to life in style. Engaged and seemingly ecstatic to be there, Abel was far more awake and human than his recorded character would have you believe. “High For This”—the exceptional mission statement of House of Balloons—served as our introduction to his live show, the biggest difference being his genuine smile and drum set.

From there, he tripped us through the best selections off the new-classic HoB (“Loft Music”, “The Morning”, “The Party and The After Party”, “House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls”, “The Knowing”, “Wicked Games”), the spacey Thursday (“The Birds Pt. 1”, “The Zone”, “Rolling Stone”) and the stellar, slow-jamming Echoes of Silence (“D.D.”, “Montreal”), each live version translating better than expected. In just about an hour, the group banged out 15 songs, but the set never felt rushed or shortened, despite some audible rumblings upon exit.

Allow us to make an educated guess: Abel Tesfaye and The Weeknd are different entities. The recorded persona is calculated, expertly produced and detestable. The Weeknd serves as a fictional output for Tesfaye, which he has gone through great lengths to make believable. That’s not to say it isn’t real, because after all, there’s always truth to be found in fiction. He’s just excellent at making us forget there’s a question at all.

Check back later today, we’ll have audio from the show uploaded. Just going through a few fixes.

Peter Lillis is Assistant Editor of Frontier Psychiatrist. He’s going to have to get used to being older than his favorite performers.

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Sons of Dionysus


A Transmedia Novel of Myth, Mirth, and the Magical Excess of Youth.