The Weeknd in Ottawa (Live) [Review/Video]
Ottawa, ON – The last time Barrymores was this busy was about 10 years ago; when The Sam Roberts Band came to town, after having won Juno Awards and more; at least, according to the man standing to my left. By 1:00 a.m., smoke was in the air, love in women’s eyes, an echo of cadences could be heard, and I had my share of the front-to-back crowd overran by women (and men, shamelessly) crooning to all the right songs by The Weeknd. But before all of that, it was 11:10 p.m. The line-up went around the block, and the weather was no warmer than -17 Celsius. Christopher Eades (the photographer) and I finally made our way into Barrymores (the smartest choice in venues for intimacy and acoustics).
Just the night before, the attendees at The Weeknd’s Waterloo performance (which sold out in hours) bragged to the heavens about the performance they witnessed; thus my night began with high hopes. Especially given that Ottawa has a long standing resume in building a young artists’ career; most recently Lady Gaga, Big Sean, and Kid Cudi to name a few. This night was no different.
The DJs (DJ AK and DJ Crunch) warmed up the impatient crowd with some old school cuts, a couple club hits (like YC’s “Racks on Racks” and Tyga’s “Faded” and “Rack City”), with a variety of other favorites as the crowd started to pour in the main floor and balconies. At 11:30, a few familiar faces and XO members Canadian Goose, appeared in the engineering booth, completely switching the mood from club hop to melodic ambience for the next 20 minutes. The concert hall suddenly turned into a dark loft party, and everyone fell into the perfect trance for the next experience. One drummer and two guitarists set up their set, and the three piece band was ready to go. Surprisingly, the drummer was set up behind an XO shield for isolation. From then on, I could tell how dedicated his team was to provide best-quality sound; and I knew I was in for a good night.
At 12:01 a.m., The Weeknd walked on stage and Ottawa erupted.
“High For This” was the first song out the gate and the crowd was already playing sing-a-long. The sea of cell phones waved through the crowd, waiting for a perfect moment to capture for memory lane and online bragging rights.
“Who getting fucked up tonight?!” The XO singer, Abel, was wearing all black, including an Orioles starter jacket, and black jeans. After his first words addressing the crowd, he smelt the herb essence in the air and noticed the batting eyes from the awing women in the crowd. I decided to continue contributing to the great aroma in the venue.
“Montreal” was a flawless performance by The Weeknd, and a glorious moment, being the first time he performed off the new album, Echoes Of Silence (released December 21, 2011). The follow up record, “Outside” was a surprising pick, since he has more notable songs on the LP like “Initiation” or “XO”. Nonetheless, it was a great story piece, and everything was calm… that is until chords jumped out the sound system to the beginning of “The Morning.” All I really have to say about that is, well, if you never were sure of what turns someone so pure into one of them girls who call cabs at dawn, quarter-to-seven– it was all right here. His live vocals were just as strong as the album recordings, if not better with crowd participation. The crowd’s energy was historic.
His entire set was powerful; from the audience participation, his dynamic stage presence, and his subtle (and limitless) talent. Besides the gorgeous women in my balcony who helped me document the track listing (named below), my favorite songs of the night were undoubtedly “The Morning,” “The Zone,” and the encore, “Wicked Games” acoustic. The greatest moment, though, had to be when the crowd sang “The Knowing” with acoustic, which was amazing too. I really wanted him to do a Take Care [Drake, 2011] medley with “Cameras” and “The Ride” but I understand his business; he doesn’t give you what you want (but what you need). Their XO approach is unorthodox, but strategic. It was insane to see how many people have been affected by the XO trilogy already and it’s only been since March 2011.
After tonight, I can say The Weeknd is something special. What I witnessed was more than a show, but an honest historic moment in Canadian music. This is the new wave of R&B-esque swag and he’s breaking the mold. I’m sure Barrymores won’t see a show like this again for a long time. I could write about this night forever, but at the end of the day, you’re going to watch YouTube for footage from fans and, what no-media-pass braving kids are doing anyway, but so will I. So I leave with a few exclusive photos from Chris Eades, and hope you can get a tenth of the feeling we all experienced that night.
Written by Jay Williams
Edited by Jasmine Johnson
Photography by Christopher Eades
01. High For This (HOB)
04.The Morning (HOB)
05. Finishes Outside (EOS)
06. Knowing This (Acoustic) (HOB)
07. The Zone ft. Drake (THRS)
08. House Of Balloons/ Glass. Table Girls (HOB)
— Encore (Chants) — 12:45 a.m.
09. Wicked Games (HOB) (Acoustic)