The Weeknd lights up FEQ opening night with smoke and fire

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Photo: Cassandra Kerwin

The Weeknd opened the 51st Festival d’Été de Québec on July 5, on one of the hottest evenings of the summer.

The Weeknd lit up the Bell stage on opening night of the 51st Festival d’Été de Québec (FEQ). Despite the oppressive heat and humidity, the Plains of Abraham were crowded with enthusiastic fans of his R&B and hip-hop music. Ten minutes before the show started, the crowd was screaming, “The Weeknd! The Weeknd!”

Some spectators collapsed due to the intense heat and had to be pulled from the crowd by St. John Ambulance medical responders. One girl was carried out unconscious in the arms of a muscular security guard; others were brought out on gurneys. After taking some time to recover, they returned to the crowd. Security guards distributed free bottles of water to thirsty spectators.

Someone near the stage shot a firework into the sky. Luckily for that person, there were no apparent injuries and guards did not discover who it was. In spite of the danger, this firework was cheered. One young woman kept the crowd happy for a short time by going topless while sitting on her friend’s shoulders, a rare occurrence at the FEQ. Instead of being pulled down by security, she was joined by a topless man.

Finally, the music started, the stage went black and The Weeknd came out with his hit song “Intro/Starboy.” His set list included many fan favourites: “Come Alive,” “Bonafide,” “Juice,” “Night by Night,” and “Old 45s.” He also sang “Earned It,” which gained popularity in the movie Fifty Shades of Grey.

Despite the overwhelming heat, The Weeknd was wearing a denim jacket and jeans. During the choruses of the closing song, four 15-foot-high jets of fire shot into the air and the heat could be felt well into the crowd. The visual and sound effects, including puffs of smoke and videos on giant screens, were amazing.

Apart from shouting out “Quebec!” “Are you ready to dance?” and “Are you ready to sing?” a few times, The Weeknd (offstage name Abel Tesfaye) rarely interacted with spectators, and mainly did laps across the stage with dance moves. His music is worthy of its popularity, but had a lack of stage presence.

Abel Makkonen Tesfaye was born in Toronto in February 1990. In 2010, using the pseudonym The Weeknd, he posted music videos on YouTube which gained some traction. Canadian rapper Drake spotted the videos and helped The Weeknd develop his career. Since then, he has won eight Billboard Music Awards, two American Music Awards, three Grammy Awards and nine Juno Awards, and has been nominated for an Academy Award. He has also started his own record label, XO.