THE WEEKND, O2 Arena – Evening Standard, 27 Nov 2013

The current thinking in a changing music business is that a loss-leading album can pay its way with improved concert sales. The Weeknd is so far the best proof that it can work. Having given away not one but three albums online in 2011, the R&B singer born Abel Tesfaye in Ontario has arrived at our biggest venue with incredible speed.

He looked as surprised as I was to be here, without a hit single to his name. A pineapple of hair sprouting from his head and a bouncy performance style, combined with the X-rated content of his albums (a fourth, on sale for money, followed this year) made him an unlikely candidate for superstardom.

Yet the enthusiastic endorsement by the rapper of the moment, Drake, and millions of free downloads meant that a feverish, predominantly female crowd sang along to every tale of dead-eyed random assignation.

They even tolerated the big screen shots of two naked girls getting hot and heavy during Kiss Land. “Can I get on top of you, London, tonight?” he asked. You can try, mate — there are eight million of us.

His high, sweet voice, deceptively innocent as it cooed and fluttered, came across like Michael Jackson with a Formula One sex drive. But beyond the shock value, the music had more urgency than the unending slow jams of his albums. Belong to the World featured hammering drums filched from Portishead, while Wanderlust was a briskly funky climax.

If he can think of something more interesting to sing about, The Weeknd could be here for the duration.