Some people liked this very much. Confession: For me, most of The Weeknd’s songs run together — well, except in one case, when what I thought was a whole separate song is in fact just the verse portion of “I Can’t Feel My Face” — and I find them pretty boring. That means the only parts of this show I really registered were a) when he was in that weirdo hall of gold mirrors singing “I Can’t Feel My Face,” which ONLY made me look because it was disorienting, and b) the very end, when he busted out “Blinding Lights” on the field and the fireworks started.
I appreciated that he didn’t sound perfect; he absolutely did appear to be singing a lot of that live, if not the whole thing, and I am always a big fan of giving your customers an experience that isn’t the same pre-recorded stuff they have on Spotify. (Dua Lipa’s music is more fun, but she’d mostly be lip-synching and flapping her arms around up there, for example. I still think she’d have given us some great costumes and maybe an aerial or two.) And let’s hear it for The Weeknd doing more than Maroon 5 did when they halftime’d.
But… still meh. “Fine” about covers it. Maybe I’m misremembering, but the best of the past productions took those familiar performers and worked in fresh tricks. This, conversely, came across like a stubborn disinterest in breaking out of this supposed “storyline” (his word) that he has going right now with a rough night in Vegas — which seems to have begun with a single he released in 2019, whose red-and-gold video ties aesthetically to a chunk of this show — and the face bandages, and fake plastic surgery, and all that. Which is wacky because he also said he spent $7 million of his own money to beef up this thing, and I guess none of it went to freshness. He said it was all in the name of playing to the crowd at home, which… okay, I guess, but I also don’t think he very successfully walked the line between “most of you aren’t here” and “but some of you are, though.”
Because of Covid protocols, obviously no fans could swarm the field and flank the stage and give a jolt of energy, although The Weeknd also isn’t that dynamic of a visual OR vocal performer, so having more space for him to bring on all those extras probably worked in his favor. On TV, they did a good job with lights and piped-in sound making it look like the stadium was full or fuller than it was. At least An Attempt Was Made? We can’t ALL be Bruno Mars, whose natural and immense charisma and catchy bops made his halftime show a total joy, and we can’t all be J.Lo and Shakira and Gaga and Katy Perry and Beyonce and even Madonna, who went all out in ways many of the male artists who’ve headlined do not (J.T. Part Deux, the aforementioned Maroons, even The Who… Her second time, Bey was just Coldplay’s guest, and she still stole the show). It’s a pity Carol Channing passed before she could do a halftime reprise. As Jess noted, she and The Weeknd might have been a performance supercouple.