Why I Love The Weeknd Live in Morocco 2018
"Wasted times I spent with someone else
She wasn't even half of you
Reminiscin' how you felt
Reminiscin' how you felt
And even though you put my life through hell
I can't seem to forget 'bout you, 'bout you
I want you to myself
And now I'm askin', who do you belong to now?
Who you give that love to now?
Who you pullin' up on?
Who you gettin' sprung for now?
And what they got that I ain't got? 'Cause I got a lot
Don't make me run up on 'em, got me blowin' up their spot
'Cause I ain't got no business catchin' feelings anyway
I ain't got no business catchin' feelings."
While we wait for the next project by The Weeknd, whether that will be another EP or an LP, we are not without amazing new music from Abel. Following on from his stunning sets at this year's Coachella festival, Abel pulled out another blinding live performance. While the set is merely a slightly shortened version of the songs he performed at Coachella, there was arguably more passion and finesse to his first ever African show. The Weeknd is consistently putting on stellar shows and is cementing his legacy as one of the most compelling, charismatic and ridiculously talented performers of his generation.
As with his Coachella set, the most surprising thing is just how well his material from Beauty Behind the Madness, Starboy and this year's best album My Dear Melancholy, hold up alongside the classic tracks from House of Balloons. The only real disappointment is the absence of any Kiss Land tracks. Watching this wide ranging, insightful interview with legendary music head Zane Lowe, it is interesting to hear Abel comment on the fact that his most passionate fans hold Kiss Land to be his best work. Prior to My Dear Melancholy, I would have agreed with them. This is not at all to downgrade the two albums that preceded the welcome surprise of his first commercially released EP. A watch of the Morocco concert secures both Beauty Behind the Madness and Starboy as formidable, creatively vital works, especially Starboy which seamlessly alternates between the Noir Horror of his early work and the vibrant Pop R&B flavour that would typify his post Kiss Land albums.
Those who are angry with Abel for apparently not returning to his roots prior to My Dear Melancholy, are missing a trick here. The last person to switch styles so effortlessly while retaining every bit of the quality that made them the most important artist of his generation was Michael Jackson. I do not say that lightly: Abel Tesfaye is on Michael's level artistically. While he may not be the best dancer - though he can hardly be called bad - his stage shows have developed into similarly compelling performance pieces with visuals that complement and accentuate the Noir themes of his music.
The Weeknd is the most important and talented artist of his generation for many reasons, but the biggest one is how he revolutionized R&B and turned it back into a genre that has cultivated and inspired the most creative and vital musicians to exist on the cutting edge. Frank Ocean, Miguel, Drake, SZA, Kelela and even inspiring and motivating legends like Beyonce to be even better now than she was a decade ago. There is no music happening anywhere that is better, or more innovative - thematically, musically and conceptually - than that which is happening in R&B. It is the dark night of the soul, fueled by Hunter S. Thompson's favourite substances. It is a plea for mercy in a harsh, ruthless and desolate world. Noir R&B is the soundtrack to the end times, at once providing solace and destruction of the self. Watching The Weeknd perform in Morocco was the realization of this vision. Watching thousands of people singing along to these tortured, conflicted and emotionally ravaged songs is truly a surreal experience. Who would have thought that something as nihilistic and chaotic as The Hills would be such a big hit? That it would inspire people to gather together and enter into a holy pact with the voice of that song?
Speaking to Zane Lowe, Abel spoke of his philosophy that to truly appreciate the moments of light and hope, you have to be acutely aware of the dark. These songs performed with the skill of a master storyteller, take the listener through despair to some semblance of hope, though never to the degree that one is confident that the dark times are over. Noir remains, weighted with cement blocks, on the mind and soul. This is the human condition in 2018, and one reason why The Weeknd is so incisive and on point in his songs. Love is a shadow on these songs, glimpsed out of the corner of an eye. Brief moments of elation only come through self-harm, self-medication and self-destruction. The woman you're with now, is the wrong one. Contentment is as elusive as House of Balloons era Abel.
Watching The Weeknd perform in Morocco is to see a man who desires to be whole most of all; to be able to look in the mirror without cracking. The contrast between the supremely confident performer at the height of his creative power with a desperate, pleading fragility, is one of the reasons why these songs sound so good played with each other. They interact and elevate one another. Might Not, a paean to the thrill of putting your life at risk in order to kill sorrow, has never sounded better than it does between Low Life and Sidewalks. Sidewalks' stoic proclamation: "I ran out of tears when I was eighteen." Sidewalks is that moment of clarity, buoyed on a wave of understanding and accepting the pain of life, carried to a conclusion that while you may lose the war, fighting against the darkness and inevitable decay is a noble thing.
R&B has always been about fucking, but it is only with the emergence of artists the caliber of The Weeknd that it reached a level of thematic maturity that reflected the moral conflict and fractured ego of the modern human seeking sex above all else. The Weeknd shows here on Party Monster, on House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls and of course Wicked Games, that there is something profound in this admission of insecurity and uncertainty. R&B that examines the low moments is not a new thing - Marvin Gaye did it supremely well on his underrated, #1 best break-up album of all time, Here, My Dear - but the way it is married to an overpowering atmosphere of despair, production that is always fresh, exciting and inventive, makes it something truly new and powerful.
I am hopeful that we will hear more new music from The Weeknd this year. There are heavy rumours that the EP plan has been replaced with an LP sometime in the Autumn. Even if My Dear Melancholy, and these live performances are all we are going to get, it has still been an incredible display of brilliance and beauty. The Weeknd is the best person making music today, and in 2018 no-one should doubt that now.
1. Pray For Me
3. Party Monster
5. Six Feet Under
6. Low Life
7. Might Not
9. Crew Love
10. House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls
12. Can't Feel My Face
13. I Feel It Coming
14. The Morning
15. Wicked Games
16. Earned It
17. Or Nah
20. Wasted Times
21. Call Out My Name
22. The Hills