The Super Bowl Halftime present is the most important stage on Earth for a musician, and the Weeknd made essentially the most of his 12-odd minutes on Sunday evening, delivering a tightly choreographed, technologically dazzling set that not solely lived as much as a few of the most iconic performances of the previous, it additionally touched on songs and pictures from all throughout his decade-long profession — and he did it below strict pandemic restrictions, earlier than a stadium that was roughly one-tenth full.
Within the week main as much as the sport, the Weeknd had stated that his foremost stage can be situated within the stands — though he would make the most of the sphere as properly — and that it will proceed the cryptic bad-night-in-Las-Vegas storyline that has accompanied all the movies and TV performances round his blockbuster newest album, “After Hours.” All of these issues proved true (though the connection to the storyline was much more cryptic than ever), however references to earlier albums had been current as properly. And though he appeared in movies and TV performances late final 12 months along with his head swathed in bandages or with exaggerated cosmetic surgery — a visible assertion he defined solely to Selection final week — he seemed pure and sported only a mustache and a light-weight beard, together with a pair of sq. sun shades that he quickly discarded.
The efficiency centered round an infinite multi-level wall-like stage, designed as a neon-lit theatrical cityscape, assembled beneath the stadium’s large video display screen/scoreboard. It occupied a complete finish of the stadium; based on his supervisor, the Weeknd spent some $7 million of his personal cash on the efficiency. The wall was lit up with signage and lights that recalled each the Las Vegas setting of lots of the “After Hours” movies in addition to the red-light-district-inspired stage set for the Weeknd’s tour behind his 2013 album “Kiss Land.”
The present opened with the Weeknd, wearing a glittery model of his now-familiar “After Hours” pink jacket and black pants, seated in a faux sports activities automotive on the prime of the cityscape. As ominous choral music performed, he obtained out and walked across the faux buildings, sitting down on a neon-lit platform as an enormous, sinister-looking creature in a white gown with glowing pink eyes was lowered from a degree above him. It joined a number of dozen dancers, seated additional down the cityscape, who had been all sporting billowing white robes and helmets with pink lights for eyes.
As his hit “Starboy” started, the 2 halves of the cityscape parted and the Weeknd emerged in a wash of vibrant lights whereas the dancers carried out robotic strikes to the tune, trying like some form of evil choir (and really recalled the robots from the video for Herbie Hancock’s 1983 hit “Rockit”). Because the music segued rapidly into his 2013 hit “The Hills,” the Weeknd went again into the brightly lit hallway behind the wall, which was stuffed with illuminated phrases — “Really feel,” “Good,” “Nothing,” “Alone,” “Hours” (nothing is random within the Weeknd’s world). He sang carefully into the digicam, which wobbled to create a disorienting impact. Because the music segued rapidly into his 2016 hit “I Can’t Really feel My Face,” a number of dancers, sporting “After Hours” pink fits and with their heads wrapped in bandages, appeared within the hallways as properly, generally stumbling round in a disoriented style but additionally snapping to consideration at occasions (the tune, though from an earlier album, additionally created one other layer of which means for the bandages).
Out of the blue, he was again on the principle stage for his 2016 hit “I Really feel It Coming,” and once more singing immediately into the digicam as fireworks launched on the reverse finish of the sphere.
In reality, that tactic was maybe essentially the most putting distinction between the Weeknd’s Super Bowl efficiency and all those that got here earlier than: Within the absence of an viewers on the sphere, he merely sang to the tv viewers, making a higher sense of intimacy than the stadium-sized halftime efficiency normally has.
As he sang, an enormous backdrop appeared on the large video display screen on the prime of the cityscape, depicting a nighttime sky full with a faux moon. That phase of the efficiency continued with “Save Your Tears” — that includes an acoustic guitarist sporting a glittery masks — the primary tune he carried out from “After Hours,” after which his earlier hit “Earned It.” The choir had doffed their white robes and had been now sporting glittering jackets and miming taking part in violins.
Throughout the temporary interlude that segued into the ultimate phase of the efficiency, dozens of thousands and thousands of viewers had been confronted with one thing that many wizening new wave followers would discover virtually not possible to think about: listening to Siouxsie & the Banshees through the Super Bowl halftime efficiency. The Weeknd sampled the British postpunk group’s 1980 tune “Comfortable Home” for the tune “Excessive for This” on his debut mixtape, however right here it was simply an interlude main into the finale, which in fact was his 2019 smash, “Blinding Lights.”
The Weeknd was accompanied by greater than 100 dancers dressed because the head-bandaged character, who stuffed your complete subject and moved in mechanized lock step. The Weeknd sang the tune whereas strolling down the middle of the sphere, surrounded by the dancers, who had been alternately marching or swirling in circles. He completed as a barrage of fireworks exploded within the sky above him, and walked slowly off the sphere because the dancers laid down.
Every year, even earlier than the Super Bowl halftime efficiency is over, the court docket of public opinion begins rating the present within the lengthy pantheon of basic ones: Prince, Michael Jackson, Beyonce, Bruce Springsteen and Woman Gaga — and, for some, the Weekend’s proclaimed favourite, Diana Ross — are normally a part of these conversations. Whereas it’s unfair to check performances musically — opinions of an artist’s music are subjective, in spite of everything — it’s truthful to say that the Weeknd succeeded in staging what could have been essentially the most technologically dazzling halftime efficiency in historical past, below what had been undoubtedly essentially the most difficult situations.