By Chyrisse Tabone, Rock At Night Tampa Correspondent
Venue: Amalie Arena, Tampa, Florida-December 17, 2015
When I heard The Weeknd was coming with its Beauty Behind the Madness Tour to the Amalie Arena, Tampa, Florida, I was pretty psyched. I remember reading an in-depth interview with The Weeknd AKA Abel Tesfaye, 25-year-old Canadian R&B artist, in the August issue of Rolling Stone. The article described how five years ago the artist was struggling to breakout with his then-style described as “dark and druggy with a Nirvana vibe.” I had heard his hit single “Can’t Feel My Face” and realized he had quite a departure from his early days. Apparently, The Weeknd was courted by A&R execs, relocated to L.A., and was groomed to appeal more to a pop-mainstream crowd. It worked because his album The Beauty Behind the Madness has garnered seven Grammy Nominations, including “Album of the Year” and “Record of the Year.” His song “Earned It” appeared in Fifty Shades of Grey and now The Weeknd is on the way to becoming a household name.
The Weeknd is currently on tour with Travi$ Scott and Banks & Halsey. On the evening of December 17th, Banks & Halsey did not appear at the Amalie Arena due to a reported illness–so the concert time was pushed up an hour or so. As I arrived, I noticed 70 percent of the crowd consisted of women dressed to the nines in short skirts, hair, and make-up—looking as if they were on the prowl at a nightclub. The arena looked like “Ladies Night” and would be the perfect place (listen up, gentlemen) to pick up a chick.
The arena was packed to the gills and as soon as the music started with Travi$ Scott, the energy elevated. Travi$ Scott, who hails from Houston, Texas, had a set which appeared to be a piece of the Southwest. Giant brick-colored rocks and a giant Saguaro cactus donned the stage. The mixmaster appeared elevated at the rear of the stage and Scott pranced out on stage, which was filled with thick smoke and colored lights. He appeared to be in the dark, most of the time and stayed at the center stage except for stints toward large groups of VIPs with cell phones raised at each side of the stage. Scott crooned his bluesy soft-styled rap that was pleasing and melodic. I guess I was expecting traditional rap and was pleasantly surprised.
Then, The Weeknd appeared and the entire arena rose from their seats and chairs located on the floor (no general admission at this concert). Everybody was singing the words to every song, swaying, hugging, and really getting into the music. Listening to The Weeknd, I was reminded of perhaps Michael Jackson or even a Bruno Mars with an edge. The music is definitely R&B—with very sexy overtones. Once could listen to The Weeknd during one of those special “Netflix and Chill” evenings.
The Weekend started his set elevated on a very high platform. A few songs into the set, it lowered to stage height so he could reach out to the audience. The set was electric with flashing lights and pyrotechnics. I could feel the heat of the flames standing in the photo pit, which gave a nice spark of warmth considering there is just a layer of rubber between our feet and the ice in the arena.
Overall, I would say this was one of the most anticipated concerts of the year. The arena was packed and Lord knows, the photo pit was too. Everybody and their brother was trying to capture photos of who might be one of the hottest stars on the planet. Just over a year ago, The Weekend was here playing at a performing arts center with less fanfare. Last night, he was the man of the hour.
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