Abel Tesfaye, AKA the Weeknd, holds the title for the most streamed song on SpotifyKayla Johnson/Flickr

“A little rain never hurt us, London, did it?” remarked Abel Tesfaye, professionally known as the Weeknd, just ten minutes into his second London show on a forebodingly stormy night. Indeed, the thunderstorms and showers merely complemented the tone of his tour, described as a “journey through a cosmic cataclysm that has erupted and plagued the Earth.” While the stage design, including a skyline of iconic buildings from around the world and a laser-shooting robot, certainly communicated this darkness, the show itself was a whirlwind of exhilarating dancefloor bangers. With 37 songs in just two hours, the setlist was relentless with hit after hit. There was barely enough time to take everything in, rendering the concert overwhelming in the best way possible.

“The setlist was relentless with hit after hit”

Before Abel took to the stage, the Haitian-Canadian DJ and producer Kaytranada performed a slew of mesmerising tracks and remixes. His combination of funk and house was an entrancing precursor to the main act of the night. Two particular highlights were his remix of Beyoncé’s smash hit, ‘Cuff It’, and his song ‘10%’ featuring Kali Uchis. Both showcased Kaytranada’s ability to produce a dancefloor atmosphere, with ‘Cuff It’ evolving from a textbook disco track into a funk-house anthem and ‘10%’ being characteristic of his loose, electronic style.

KAYTRANADA's song '10%' is characteristic of his loose, electronic styleYouTube (KAYTRANADA)

After Kaytranada’s set, anticipation was rife and, before long, the screams of fans seated behind the stage heralded Abel’s arrival. Soon, the dancers, whose white cloaks gave them the appearance of ghostly apparitions, were ambling slowly across the stage. A recording of the titular track of Abel’s latest album, ‘Dawn FM’, blared through the speakers as they took their places around the robot on stage. This spectacle immediately thrust the audience into Abel’s dystopian world before he even arrived on stage, helped by the lyrics: “Cause after the light is it dark/Is it dark all alone?/All alone”, which echoed eerily around the stadium. When Abel finally made his first appearance, to the roar of the record-breaking 80,000 fans in attendance, what followed was a quartet of dance tunes, including ‘Take My Breath’ and ‘Can’t Feel My Face’. Injecting pure euphoria into the stadium, these opening tracks were some of the best of the concert, with flashing lights and pounding instrumentals that electrified the damp air.

“This spectacle immediately thrust the audience into Abel’s dystopian world”

A few songs later, the coupling of hits ‘The Hills’ and ‘Often’ – songs that weren’t my favourite before the concert but proved much better live – set the stage ablaze. Literally. Streams of flames ignited the onstage cityscape, and plumes of fire were used strategically at key moments of the songs. For example, when Abel sustained the high note at the end of the bridge of ‘The Hills’, flames shot across the stage. Vocally, Abel was on top form throughout the concert, his powerful belts during ‘The Hills’ exemplifying his prowess.

Next, Abel performed fan favourites like ‘Starboy’, ‘Heartless’, and ‘Low Life’, all of which were high-energy crowd-pleasers. However, even during the slower tracks that dominated the second half of his performance, Abel maintained the audience’s attention. Both ‘Out of Time’, which Abel declared his favourite song off his new release, and the funky disco-pop hit ‘I Feel It Coming’ still had the crowd belting the lyrics. During ‘Out Of Time’, Abel encouraged fans to join in, even going so far as playing a game of rock-paper-scissors with an audience member.


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Towards the end of the concert, as the sky turned dark, performances of ‘Less Than Zero’ and ‘Blinding Lights’ were easily the strongest of the setlist. During ‘Less Than Zero’, the stadium was flooded with blue lights that illuminated the audience. The track was received as if it were an ode to the magic of the concert experience. This atmosphere was then reinforced by ‘Blinding Lights’, the most streamed song of all time on Spotify. Due to its popularity, ‘Blinding Lights’ was always going to be among the most memorable tracks of the night. However, the experience was enhanced by the use of golden lights, which flashed in every direction.

Altogether, the “After Hours Till Dawn” concert was a non-stop stream of pop and RnB excellence and a triumphant return to live music for the Weeknd following his last appearance in London in 2017.