The Best Concerts of the Year: The Weeknd at Soldier FieldPhotos by Bina Zafar Music Features The Weeknd
There was no artist who better executed onstage theatrics in 2022 than The Weeknd. His After Hours Til Dawn tour was highly anticipated for two reasons. First, it enveloped his most recent eras that were-like everything else-delayed because of Covid for the last several years. Second, it was my fourth attempt to see him live since catching the Worcester stop on his 2015 Beauty Behind The Madness tour.
It was that particular album that made me feel connected to his music on a visceral level. “The Hills,” which I played ad nauseam much to the chagrin of my friends, captivated me from the very first second I heard it. I had the pleasure of placing it as the best song in his discography on a “list”: I wrote for Entertainment Weekly:
“Tesfaye’s trauma has always been challenging to navigate, but in ‘The Hills,’ it reaches horror-movie levels. His depravity and disillusion don’t stem just from the lyrics on the track, which fully disclose his coldness. It’s his throaty and deeply pensive delivery of verse after verse. Its ominous and dreary nature implies that ‘The Hills’ isn’t just a place—it’s a feeling of hollowness that he may never be able to fill.”
Starboy followed a year later and it extravagantly displayed a transformation for the singer both visually and sonically. The tour date I set my sights on for that cycle was sadly the same day as my grandfather’s funeral. I was downcast for a number of reasons but figured that The Weeknd’s 2018 appearance at the now-defunct Panorama Music Festival in New York City was another chance to experience his brilliance.
However, his set was canceled due to severe weather. I tried my hand again a few months later at Global Citizen Festival which took place in New York’s Central Park. But like clockwork, The Weeknd’s set was evacuated after panic erupted in the crowd. With Covid leaving the landscape of live music in total disarray, I decided to instead focus on critiquing his music. I reviewed 2020’s After Hours, chronicled his video journey and discussed his best moments of the year.
Seeing The Weeknd perform at Chicago’s Soldier Field in 2022 was a true full-circle moment. Not only did I establish myself as a connoisseur of his catalog but I was added to the guest list as press to cover the show. I also used this opportunity to reunite with one of my closest friends-and favorite photographers-whom I haven’t seen in three years to do a photo gallery of his performance. For that night in July, I was a gleeful participant in The Weeknd’s emotive realm that consisted of renditions of both older tracks as well as newer hits. Needless to say, it was long overdue.