Having just re-released his trilogy of mixtapes to the masses in a legitimate three disc box-set (as opposed to a free downloadable zip file), online sensation The Weeknd played an intimate, one-off show at a tiny venue tucked behind Portobello Road market on Sunday night. Feeling like the meeting of a secret society, a suitable level of hype grew around the gig within the 48 hours fans were given to apply for tickets - with mystery continuing to build around the location details that only came to light at the very last minute.
Possessing a cult-like following of mega-fans, The Supper Club was packed out with a varied clientele - from excitable teenage girls, whose parents probably thought they were at a sleepover, to the calm and collected grown-up types nodding their heads at the back – but regardless of stereotypes, it felt like everybody was there for one reason: Abel. As the 9 o'clock stage time approached, the packed venue became hungry, and right on time, there he was.
The entirely white surroundings turned from opulent to bleak the moment the hauntingly ethereal noises of opener ‘Lonely Star’ blasted from the sound-system and Abel’s falsetto began to echo around the walls. Flowing easily from one song to the next, the venue was never left in silence and a medley of tracks from all three mixtapes blended seamlessly into one another in a well-rehearsed wall of noise. The set included nearly every track from first mixtape ‘House of Balloons’ - with the crowd losing control at the first note of narcotic influenced love anthem ‘What You Need’.
Abel’s voice is incredible. High-pitched noises I had assumed to be the result of a vocoder - or at least manipulated in the studio - rang out pure and true straight from his mouth. Whilst singing he was an intriguing and interesting front man, working the audience and the stage easily – and at one point inducing near-hysteria by searching for and singling out a female member of the crowd who’d been screaming for him. In between sets, he spoke quietly and shyly and was endearingly introverted and in his way was reminiscent, in both talent and mannerisms, of Michael Jackson.
He performed for an hour with a very talented live band, who came into their own at multiple points in the performance – notably during ‘Crew Love’, where Drake’s verse was replaced by an up-tempo and very well placed drum solo. Famous for the range of digital and unidentifiable white noise on his records, the live instruments added deeper levels to some of the more menacing tracks such as ‘Wicked Games’, ‘The Knowing’, ‘Next’ and ‘The Zone’ whilst equally upping the excitement on the few and far between light-hearted tracks such as the aforementioned ‘Crew Love’.
Treating the crowd to a performance of barely released ‘The Smiths’ sampling song ‘Enemy’, which he reveals he wrote and recorded only a couple of weeks ago in a New York hotel room, the lyrics are yelled back at him with expertise as if it’s his greatest hit - but it’s not, and it’s more than certain that his greatest is yet to be seen.
Words by Hayley Brown