The Weeknd returned to his hometown of Toronto on Thursday with all the flames and fury from his spectacular live stadium concert.
More than two months after a nationwide Rogers network outage dashed the Canadian pop star’s plans to start his world tour from home, he made up for it by canceling the massive show for the final stops of the North American leg in returned the city.
“You’re going to have to get me off the stage tonight,” he assured the crowd at the Rogers Centre.
Turns out that wasn’t entirely true.
Despite expectations that a surprise might have been in the works, The Weeknd stuck to the same 29-song setlist that he played on all stops on the After Hours Til Dawn Tour.
Before a massive set in a post-apocalyptic city, he sang a relentless string of hits, including “Can’t Feel My Face,” “I Feel It Coming,” “Starboy,” and “Blinding Lights,” without staying long for an encore.
Behind him, a derelict row of skyscrapers burst into flames, belching smoke and eventually appearing to collapse with the illusion of giant digital screens.
A group of dancers, fully draped in red shawls, walked in a rhythmic procession for much of the show, eventually making their way to a giant moon on the opposite side of the stadium.
Amidst all the bombast, the evening offered the singer, née Abel Tesfaye, a chance to bask in his success in front of a local audience for the first time in years.
Tesfaye grew up in Scarborough, Ontario on the east end of Toronto, and it was here that he rose from a hot Toronto artist to a music chart staple. Eventually, that earned him a coveted spot as entertainment at the Super Bowl halftime show in 2021.
This was his first concert in Toronto since his fourth studio album, After Hours, established him as one of the industry’s top artists.
And he told the crowd that this homecoming reminded him why he makes music.
“My first show in Toronto – my first show ever – was the Mod Club in 2011,” he recalled of the now-closed concert hall.
“Now we’re doing the SkyDome back to back.”
Tesfaye referred to the Rogers-owned venue as SkyDome all night.
He never said Rogers’ name or referred to the failure, which forced him to cancel just over an hour before the July performance.
It was one of several setbacks that the first leg of the After Hours Til Dawn Tour experienced in a summer marred by pandemic uncertainties for live events.
First, opening act Doja Cat dropped out about a month before shows could begin with tonsillectomy, while a major fire broke out outside the stadium in Las Vegas where its fans walked out of a show in August.
Then, in early September, Tesfaye lost his voice in the middle of his Los Angeles concert, prompting him to reschedule the performance to a subverted date in the future.
It seemed like even the Toronto performance was headed for trouble when Montreal DJ and opener Kaytranada’s mixing equipment went down and the notoriously shy artist had to entertain the crowd for a few minutes of silence.
“(It was) probably too much heat,” he joked before turning back to the music.
The fans didn’t seem to mind and when The Weeknd took the stage everything seemed to be going smoothly.
The Weeknd will return with a second show on Friday night.
His After Hours Til Dawn Tour is expected to kick off additional legs moving through Mexico, Europe, Asia and more regions, although no concrete announcements have been made as to the schedule.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on September 22, 2022.