Weeknd Gives Chicago a Taste of New-Age R&B

by Sommer Thornton

Friday, November 7th the Weeknd went ham at the United Center on the Chicago stop of his Madness Tour. 

Performing for a near sold-out crowd, R&B crooner the Weeknd kept everyone on their feet grooving and singing along, including the security guards. He performed old and new hits from his last 3 albums, and proved to be a musical powerhouse belting out insane high notes and long runs. And the Weeknd’s signature soft falsetto had the women on fleek.

The Weeknd’s eccentricity attracts fans from every walk of life. And his music, though R&B at the core, has hints of electronica, rock, pop, and new age. The Weeknd’s raw lyrics flaunt a lifestyle with lush sex and drugs, sounding more like a rap or rock star than a soul singer. But just as he can sing crass he can croon soft and sweet, sometimes in the same song.

The Weeknd, donned in a black track suit, performed many songs from his infamous Trilogy album that catapulted him into cult stardom like High for This, House of Balloons, Valerie, and Morning. I loved Glass Table Girls. He also rocked cuts from his new album Beauty Behind the Maddness like, Shameless, Earned It, As You Are, and I Can’t Feel My Face.

I dug the simple setup of the stage that looked like a cosmic madhouse, all-black with a cage that would descend and ascend around the band, which sat on a high platform.  Around the stage were these Rubik’s cubes from the ceiling to the floor that illuminated their own light show.

The Weeknd proved he deserved every bit of the success he’s had this past year. His vocal ability is next-to-none, especially live. His sound is like a hybrid of Prince, Michael Jackson, George Michael, and a hint of R. Kelly.

The best part of the show was the Weeknd hitting his high notes effortlessly, sending the crowd into a frenzy, and his amazing band- a rock fused soul collection that could go from heavy metal to EDM, to R&B, to new age. The guitarist and drummer were bananas. And I like how the Weeknd had fun on stage, busting Michael Jackson moves, and moaning like Prince.

The Weeknd, with his countless hits and growing list of features will have a long career as one of the ushers of New Age R&B. Chicago was fortunate to host him twice in 2015.

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About Sommer Thornton

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