With the full line up of the 10th Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix post-race concerts yet to be revealed, promoters took heed of the landmark edition’s significance by already enlisting the likes of rock super-heroes Guns N' Roses to play the race-day concert on November 25.
However, with the group having performed in the UAE before, it is the debut concert performance of The Weeknd, two days earlier, that is equally noteworthy.
Made in the UAE
With the 28-year-old Canadian singer at the top of his game, his Abu Dhabi show not only marks another feather in the cap of the UAE as a concert destination but also confirms The Weeknd as pop music’s latest star-boy, which the UAE played its part in fostering.
Long-term Abu Dhabi and Dubai clubbers would not be surprised by the singer’s ascension to the pop summit.
Real name Abel Tesfaye, The Weeknd first performed in the UAE four years ago for two intimate club appearances in both emirates.
Despite the standard brevity of club gigs (the Weeknd played for just over 20 minutes) and it being a year before dropping his star-making second album, Beauty Behind the Madness, the buzz surrounding the singer was undeniable with both nights hosting a heaving and sweaty crowd who came to witness a star on the rise.
With the big selling Beauty Behind the Madness and his current release, last year’s Star Boy, fulfilling his star potential, The Weeknd is now set for a heroic return to the capital to play a full concert at the Du Arena.
A minimal affair
And judging by what we saw at Morocco’s Mawazine Festival on Friday, UAE fans should expect a slick and hit-laden set.
There is a propensity to ask for bigger production whenever an artist plays at a large venue like the Du Arena, but when it comes to The Weeknd’s stark stage set up it is actually a good thing.
With his trademark sound incorporating a sense of broody mystery, fire-works and dancers are never going to suit the Weeknd.
Instead, with a black-clad three piece band – a drummer, keyboardist and guitarist – huddled in tight formation behind the singer (who also resembled a monochrome figure with a black jacket and jeans and baseball cap), most of the drama occurs in the large screen behind with its constant mix of atmospheric images.
With The Weeknd’s sultry and airy songs, not to mention the relentless noir-blue lighting, the minimalist nature of the production comes across as elegant and a true reflection of his body of work.
His voice carries it off
But such a gambit can only pay off if the vocal performance is top notch. Fortunately, The Weeknd’s worrying showing at the Coachella Festival in the US in April, where he sounded weak and wispy, can be chalked up as a bad day at the office.
In Morocco, he was in fine - and relatively chatty form - as his voice, a sweet and seductive instrument in its own right, channelled the thrills and menace essential to his work.
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The set list
When it comes to the songs performed, the set-list has been tried and tested with the running order similar to his showing at Coachella.
Late arrivals beware as The Weeknd doesn’t like to keep his best material solely for the encore.
Expect latest hits Star Boy and Party Monster to be unleashed early in the set before we are taken through a catalogue drawing upon his last two albums.
Old school fans may be disappointed, however, as on The Weeknd latest tour has him largerly ignoring songs from his 2014 debut Kiss Land.
Despite that omission, his upcoming Abu Dhabi show should be celebrated by the faithful and useful introduction into one of pop music’s biggest stars.
The Weekend performs as part of the Abu Dhabi After Race Concerts on November 23. To attend any of the four post-race performances it is necessary to purchase a ticket for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Tickets are available online at www.yasmarinacircuit.com and Virgin Megastores, Yas Central Express stand at Yas Mall, and through the YasHUB smartphone app and its Facebook shop: facebook.com/yasmarinacircuit