King of the Fall: Hometown love for The Weeknd in Toronto [Review]
Toronto, ON – Toronto has a lot of hometown heroes in the vast world of urban music. Most notably is of course Drake but also Kardinal Offishal, Maestro, July Black and k-os, among other great artists. These talents have been around for multiple years ensuring that Toronto’s urban music thrives and gets the credit its due. Their projects reflect the city, their sound is notably Canadian and they proudly rep even the smallest neighbourhoods from Rexdale to Scarborough wherever they go. Even when they are out in South Africa or Europe, they don’t forget that small downtown venue where their journey began. With that said, this past Sunday (September 21st), Toronto witnessed the confirmation of their newest hometown hero; The Weeknd.
The Weeknd, whose actual name is Abel Tesfaye, is possibly Canada’s most sought after musical export at this point in time. Coming from the deep dark reaches of Scarborough, The Weeknd, came into the game in March 2011 with his debut mixtape, House of Balloons. Mixing a very foggy, dark and mood setting R&B sound with pitch perfect vocals, The Weeknd showed people right from the jump that he could be the voice of Toronto’s urban youth. Releasing follow up mixtapes Thursday and Echoes of Silence in the same year, he gained not only regional recognition but an international buzz that propelled him into R&B superstardom.
After a fresh new album in 2013 entitled Kiss Land, and a plethora of anticipation from fans and critics alike, The Weeknd returned to his hometown this past Sunday to show them he hadn’t forgotten about the screw face capital that raised him. Appropriately titled the King of the Fall tour, The Weeknd linked up with Los Angles natives Jhené Aiko and ScHoolboy Q for a special five show tour that stopped in Brooklyn, Los Angeles, San Francisco and of course Toronto. After kicking the tour off at the Barclays Center in Bed-Stuy last week, it was Toronto’s turn to experience the king.
Doors to the Molson Canadian Amphitheatre opened at 7:30 p.m. for a soaking wet crowd. The weather on Sunday was one of this season’s coldest and rainiest. If you aren’t familiar with this particular venue, for starters, it is all outdoors. A healthy portion of the seated areas are covered by a roof but the 400 section and lawns are completely out in the open. Obviously it wasn’t ideal but in some ways, it set the tone for the concert’s main attraction. The dark and dreary setting suited the type of music The Weeknd is known for.
Things were started promptly with singer Jhené Aiko taking the stage to moderately packed crowd. She opened with some of her most popular tracks such as “Lyin King”, “Spotless Mind”, and “The Pressure.” Her latest LP Souled Out currently sits at No. 3 on the charts and for good reason. Aiko has shown time after time that she is able to make both guys and girls move to the beat of her melodic voice and soulful rhythms. She tapered things off with crowd pleaser “The Worst” among others as the warmed up crowd got ready for TDE’s finest.
Up next to the stage was Hoover Street head honcho, ScHoolboy Q. Not only did he come on in one of his classic bucket hats, he also was wearing none other than Phil Kessel’s Toronto Maple Leafs jersey. If he didn’t already have the crowd’s full attention, he got it as soon as everyone saw the blue and white. Q, still riding the momentum of his early 2014 release, Oxymoron, gave the crowd a gangster-filled set filled with hits and album cuts. He opened with “Gangsta” and proceeded to run through the highlights of his catalogue. His set got exponentially more active with songs like “Collard Greens”, “2 On”, “There He Go” and “Break The Bank.” He signed off by thanking the fans for putting his daughter through school then promptly closed things out with his most popular cut and perhaps the song of 2014; “Man of the Year.” At this point, the crowd had gotten both a dose of smooth R&B from Jhené and a shot of hard raps ScHoolboy which was the perfect mix before The Weeknd hit the stage.
At approximately 9:30 p.m., the lights went low and the crowd’s screams filled the venue. After a few moments paused, the scintillating strings to The Weeknd’s “Enemy” came through the sound system. The crowd erupted in sheer excitement as his voice sang out “I’m so back, I’m so back.” There was still no sign of where he was on stage but his voice was undoubtedly present. Half way through the song, the massive screen set up on stage displayed a close up of his face singing the lyrics to his 2012 bonus track. As the song concluded, the screen split in half and out walked the 24 year old R&B sensation.
Equipped with what looked to be a black army vest, he promptly got on with the show, going right into his ‘House of Balloons’ cut “What You Need.” His stage presence has notably improved from his very first show back in July 2011 at Toronto’s Mod Club. He is much more commanding, engaging and isn’t afraid to add in a little pelvis thrust or a sidewalk two step with of course his voice as the main attraction. He then flowed into a few tracks of Kiss Land that came to moderate reaction. You can easily tell that even though the fans are receptive to his latest album, they really connect more with his trifecta of mixtapes and hearing them live takes them right back to the first time they heard it.
His set list was varied across the board, not really sticking to a time line or story which was refreshing. It was such a surprise to see which rumbling based beat would come through the speakers next. He went from songs like “Gone”, “Crew Love”, “Remember You” and the newly popular “Wanderlust” to his latest track fittingly entitled “King of the Fall” that features more rapping than actual singing which is something he prides himself on; unpredictability. He also didn’t do much talking to the crowd. He lets the music and his subtle cadences do the talking for him. Ever since he put out his first project, he has always prided on surrounding himself with a lot of mystery and truly letting his music speak for him.
Towards the end of the show, he really dove into the classics. Performing tracks like “The Morning”, “High for This”, “Loft Music”, “The Knowing” and “House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls”, The Weeknd really gave the crowd what they came to see. He closed things out with the emotionally raw and honest House of Balloons ballad, “Wicked Games.” After thanking the crowd for their dedication and love, he retired backstage. Knowing very well that the show was not over yet, the crowd almost immediately alternated between chanting “Weeknd, Weeknd!” or “Abel, Abel!” After what seemed like a lifetime, the lights came back on and out stepped Toronto’s hometown hero for an electrifying encore. He performed his hit “Or Nah” and of course his latest hit, “Often.” In the latter song, he claims “in my city I’m a young God” which was perhaps the realest thing he said all night. It was clear to see on Sunday night that the fans who like him, love him. Showing no signs of slowing down, The Weeknd has more than proven that his title as a hometown hero is well deserved.
Written by Scotty Glaysher for HipHopCanada
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