THE WEEKND NEWS
Where: The Chelsea at the Cosmopolitan
By JASON BRACELIN
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL
In an angelic voice, he sang of devilish urges, his gorgeous timbre a beam of light illuminating dark temptations.
“The fast life keeps gaining on me,” The Weeknd purred over a skittering trap beat, not bemoaning his demons, just trying to outpace them. “Put some more inside your cup,” he then instructed. “And drink ‘til you numb the pain.”
If there truly is a fine line between pleasure and pain, as the cliche goes, The Weeknd chops and snorts the thing up just like he does those of the pharmaceutical variety, rendering the two one in the same — or extremely hard to tell apart, at least in his soft-voiced, hard-living songbook.
“My God white, he in my pocket / He get me redder than the devil, ‘til I go nauseous,” he sang on “Often,” a song about getting entangled in lust, but not commitment. “She asked me if I do this every day, I said ‘Often.’”
As he performed the song midway through his fat-free, hour-long set at The Chelsea at the Cosmopolitan on Friday, several female crowd members sang along from atop the shoulders of the dudes they were with.
It was a striking visual contrast, this picture of good cheer for bad habits — habits that The Weeknd addresses openly.
“Everybody ’round me sayin’ I should relax ’cause / I’ve been goin’ hard ‘til my eyes roll back,” he confessed on “Might Not.”
“Always tryna send me off to rehab / Drugs start to feeling like it’s decaf,” he later acknowledged on “The Hills.”
It’s a lifestyle that The Weeknd neither promotes nor defends, glamorizes or feels the need to apologize for.
On “Reminder,” from his recently released third studio album “Starboy,” his second consecutive record to debut atop the “Billboard” album chart, he marvels about being celebrated for debauchery by the most unlikeliest of sources.
“I just won a new award for a kids show / Talking ‘bout a face-numbing off a bag a blow,” he sang. “I am not a Teen Choice.”
Maybe not, but The Weeknd has found a wide audience nonetheless in large part because his songs serve the same purpose for his listeners that the aforementioned substances do for him: they’re a release.
His catalog is a beautiful expulsion of ugliness, and it elicits a passionate response: When he performed the aforementioned number, the floor of the Chelsea shook so hard from the crowd bouncing on their feet that it almost felt like standing atop a trampoline.
This kind of overheated reaction can seem at odds with The Weeknd’s delivery: Vocally, he’s the personification of a quiet storm, giving steady, smooth voice to cloud-covered emotions.
At the Chelsea, he performed with a three-piece backing band, his vocals swathed in ominous, echoing synth lines buffered by a bass-heavy bottom end that worked the body like a deep tissue massage, especially during the concussive funk of “I Can’t Feel My Face” and a cathartic “False Alarm,” whose primal scream chorus was further amped by a hydraulic beat.
As he performed the latter tune, The Weeknd, dressed head-to-toe in black, leaned hard into his mic stand, eyes closed, mic occasionally pressed into his forehead.
He looked as if he was lost in thought as he told the tale of a woman incapable of emotional attachment.
“She loves everybody / She gets off all the time,” he sang. “It’s a dark philosophy / And it haunts her constantly.”
That description could just as easily be applied to The Weeknd himself, at least judging from the sentiments he shares in song.
Despite his trust issues and conflicted feeling toward romance, though, The Weeknd is no fatalist, and he seemed out to underscore this point at show’s end, when he performed a sweet, playful “I Feel It Coming,” a breezy-sounding blown kiss to a woman who has reservations about letting someone get close to her.
“I’m just trying to get you high / And faded off this touch,” he sang, love serving as his intoxicant of choice, at least for a song.
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