The Weeknd Brings Global Stadium Tour to Foxborough’s Gillette Stadium: Review, Photos and Setlist

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The post The Weeknd Brings Global Stadium Tour to Foxborough’s Gillette Stadium: Review, Photos and Setlist appeared first on Consequence.

The road to R&B superstar The Weeknd’s 2022 “After Hours Til Dawn” tour (get tickets here) has been a complicated one, to say the least. Initially conceived as an arena run in support of 2020’s blockbuster album After Hours, the shows were an early victim of the great pandemic postponement wave that shifted eyes to the following summer. Another series of delays, new dates and new considerations — including the January release of After Hours followup Dawn FM — finally pushed the shows to this summer, boasting a retooled name and a refreshed set of stadium-sized ambitions.

The arena-to-stadium leap is one reserved for a select few artists with the clout and commercial appeal to pull it off. Booking these behemoth structures and their 50,000-plus fan capacities — largely the domains of NFL football teams on this North American jaunt — is a statement move; an insistence that the average city-center arena would unacceptably constrain the spectacle of your show and the crowds clamoring for it.

Following a two-year sprint of chart-topping, engineering a Super Bowl halftime show and otherwise positioning himself as one of the biggest pop stars anywhere, one Abel Tesfaye deemed himself up for the challenge. Thursday night’s (July 21st) show at Foxborough’s Gillette Stadium sought to bring enough firepower to prove it.

The trappings of an elaborately art-directed show were evident from one glance around the floor. An enormous crimson moon floated at one end of a football-field-length catwalk, facing a 3D model of a crumbling cityscape at the other. Once a masked Tesfaye hit the stage, to the tune of After Hours opener “Alone Again,” a dazzling light show (occasionally synced to the LED wristbands distributed to the crowd) and a crew of thematically choreographed dancers resembling the Imperial Guard entered the mix. The columns of flames blasting up from the stage during degenerate anthem “The Hills” a few songs later could’ve given Metallica a run for their money.

The Weeknd gillette stadium
The Weeknd gillette stadium

The Weeknd, photo by Ben Stas

At the center of it all was Tesfaye, who often seemed to marvel at his own sell-out crowd from the mid-catwalk position he favored for much of the night, while moving briskly through a setlist that touched on nearly 30 songs. The famously guarded Canadian was really not one for stage banter, save for a few typical “how-are-we-feeling”-isms sprinkled across the set, choosing instead to let the music do the talking. When you could hear it, anyway.

Mileage may vary, but from the field seats, the waves of sub-bass rolling across a sweaty, mid-heat-wave Gillette Stadium like so many miniature earthquakes threatened to consume the rest of the mix whole. At times the boom even overcame the main attraction of Tesfaye’s otherworldly voice, to the degree that engaging with the songs themselves began to feel secondary to the sheer sensory overload of it all.

The Weeknd gillette stadium
The Weeknd gillette stadium

The Weeknd, photo by Ben Stas

Moments where the bombast dialed back were few and far between, but a rare moment of calm came during a version of “Wicked Games” reworked with a skeletal horror-synth palette, bolstered by columns of light extending an alien abduction tractor beam towards the heavens. It was both one of the show’s most arresting moments and few nods towards Tesfaye’s mixtape trilogy days, when the notion that the aggressively horny crooner flipping Beach House samples into shadowy R&B that made partying sound terrifying would one day be headlining stadiums probably seemed laughable.

Tesfaye has never really left all that tortured melancholy in the past though, regardless of what some of his bubblier recent singles might suggest. The synthpop leanings of Dawn FM and its predecessor — where a significant portion of the setlist pulled from, naturally — represent Tesfaye’s brightest and most approachable music to date, but he’s still got a compound full of models getting faded on “Heartless” and an afterlife fixation on his newest project.

The Weeknd gillette stadium
The Weeknd gillette stadium

The Weeknd, photo by Ben Stas

Hearing a few of those throwback moments (which also included House of Balloons’ “The Morning” and his immortal feature on Drake’s “Crew Love”) threaded into a setlist peppered with the hits that have brought him from there to here cemented how this unlikely fusion of the bleak and the anthemic is something singularly his.

Most importantly for the success of this ambitious tour, said fusion very much works its magic on a crowd. A muddy mix or any other number of drawbacks and irritations that come with seeing live music in a space this huge ultimately didn’t matter to the tens of thousands standing on their chairs for a better look and chanting “Abel! Abel!” during a lengthy pause before the show-closing “Blinding Lights.” Once more surveying from the middle of the floor, Tesfaye had them all in the palm of his hand.

The Weeknd gillette stadium
The Weeknd gillette stadium

The Weeknd, photo by Ben Stas

The Weeknd next plays Chicago on Sunday (July 24th). Tickets for that gig, and for the rest of the tour, are available via Ticketmaster.

Setlist:

Along Again
Gasoline
Sacrifice (Swedish House Mafia Remix)
How Do I Make You Love Me?
Can’t Feel My Face
Take My Breath (live debut)
Hurricane
The Hills
Often
Crew Love
Starboy
Heartless
Low Life
Or Nah
Kiss Land
Party Monster
Faith
After Hours
Out of Time
I Feel It Coming
Die for You
Is There Someone Else
I Was Never There
Wicked Games
Call Out My Name
The Morning
Save Your Tears
Less Than Zero
Blinding Lights

The Weeknd Brings Global Stadium Tour to Foxborough’s Gillette Stadium: Review, Photos and Setlist
Ben Stas

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