Canadian R&B act Abel Makkonen Tesfayese (aka The Weeknd) was always going to be one of Roskilde Festival’s highlights in a music line-up that many festival-goers contend is void of veritable headliners this year.
This notwithstanding, there was some confusion as what to expect from the show – would it be a masterclass in Tesfayese’s undeniable vocal prowess or would he wilt in the limelight?
Kicking things off later than expected, The Weeknd shook the partisan crowd to life with a performance of his flagship track, ‘Starboy’. A significant screen lag and palpable sound issues marred what was otherwise a befittingly bold opening. This was further diluted by the black and white screen projections against a dark, restless sky. The lukewarm start dragged past the first few songs before a driven performance of ‘party monster’ changed the direction of the show.
Gone were the insipid black and white screens, duly replaced by rich colours and strong visuals. The sound still wasn’t quite right though and several punters questioned whether what we were hearing was playback or a tone maestro at his recognisable best – pushing his tenor range to the maximum with some mind-blowing falsettos.
Midway through and any doubts as to what we were hearing were consigned to mere memory compliments of an epic rendition of ‘Six Feet Under’ – another of the monumental tunes off Tesfayese’s 2016 album ‘Starboy’.
Cementing his popularity with the crowd, The Weeknd then rolled out a bold performance of ‘Low Life’ (minus the grunts and barks of Atlanta rapper Future, who features heavily in the studio version).
With the skies darkening and a crescent moon rising low over the trees around the Orange Stage, Tesfaye’s show peaked into top gear, as club grooves such as ‘Secrets’ and the iconic ‘Earned it’, off the ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ soundtrack, worked a powerful, spellbinding magic on the indefatigable crowd.
A reminder of The Weeknd’s local popularity came towards the end as his popular party anthem ‘Can’t feel my face’ received unanimous backing from the crowd, who sang along for its entirety.
The Weekend came, saw and conquered Roskilde Festival 2017. If Tesfaye arrived as a Starboy, he left as a legend, carried by cheers for what was quite possibly the biggest crowd this reviewer has seen at the Orange Stage in his eight years at the event.