The Weeknd Unveils Opening Acts for Stadium Tour, Team Reveals Details About ‘Conceptual’ Show (EXCLUSIVE)

The Weeknd’s opening acts for his global stadium tour, which launches in his hometown of Toronto next Friday, will be R&B singer Snoh Aalegra, Canadian electronic artist Kaytranada and top DJ/producer Mike Dean, his team reveals in an exclusive interview with Variety. The full 19 dates, noting which acts are playing in which cities, appear below.

The tour’s original opener, Doja Cat, pulled out last month to undergo throat surgery, and although “the phone was ringing” with calls from interested parties, according to Omar Al-joulani — Live Nation’s president of touring and a Toronto native who has worked with the Weeknd since 2014 — the choices reflect the artist’s long practice of having up-and-coming acts open his tours, even one as massive as the stadium show that will work its way across North America (slowly, due to its size) through Labor Day weekend before moving on to the rest of the world.

“He’s always been ahead of the curve in terms of the artists that he’s shared a stage with,” Al-joulani says, citing Travis Scott, Halsey, Jhene Aiko, Schoolboy Q, Lil Uzi Vert, Bryson Tiller and Banks. Unusually, the Weeknd almost never has been an opening act himself: “Early on, he opened for Florence and the Machine one time at the Hollywood Bowl and Justin Timberlake in New York, but I think that’s it,” he adds.

This trek was originally scheduled to be an arena tour launching in June of 2020 in support of the Weeknd’s “After Hours” album, which was released just days after the pandemic began in earnest in the U.S. But the blockbuster success of the ten-times platinum single “Blinding Lights” and the Weeknd’s 2021 headlining performance on the world’s biggest stage — the Super Bowl Halftime show — vaulted him into another category of stardom. After a couple of postponements, it was decided to scrap the original tour completely and go big with a stadium-sized show that will highlight both “After Hours” and his most recent album, “Dawn FM,” which the Weeknd (whose real name is Abel Tesfaye) released in January in a deliberately low-key fashion, possibly to give his audience a breather between the ubiquity of “Blinding Lights” and a massive, multi-year world tour.

“Abel has reached global stardom — stadium status,” says his longtime creative director, La Mar Taylor, “so it’s the most natural progression for him to follow: The ideas and sonics were made for venues of this size.” The show, now called “After Hours til Dawn,” has been completely overhauled from the original 2020 plan, which was three months away from launching when the pandemic struck. “Maybe five percent of our original ‘After Hours’ production still remains for this tour. We really went back to the drawing board when we made the decision to switch from arenas to stadiums.”

The Super Bowl gave them an idea not only of how big they could go, but how much bigger. “We definitely took inspiration from the Super Bowl performance — and expanded it,” he continues. “There were so many restrictions and constraints around that performance that we could not fully realize the vision we had for it. Now we can.”

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The Weeknd’s concerts have always been theatrical — a jones that will get an even bigger outlet with the forthcoming HBO series “The Idol,” which he co-wrote and stars in — and stadiums give him a much bigger stage on which to project the storylines for the thematically connected albums, although it was unclear whether the TV series will be reflected in the show.

“The entire show is conceptual,” Taylor says. “There is a linear story between ‘After Hours’ and ‘Dawn FM,’ and I think the audience will walk away with different interpretations of the show. To us, that’s the whole point.”

While Taylor didn’t give specifics about how much older material will be performed — a mixtape-style approach to the earlier hits along the lines of his Coachella set with Swedish House Mafia seems possible — he did say that it will be a big part of the show. “The setlist will put an emphasis on the newer albums, while still highlighting big moments throughout the catalog.”

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Of course, the fact that the tour is opening in the city where it all started “logistically, historically and sentimentally made sense,” Taylor says. The Weeknd, a rare artist who had a significant buzz around their first release before they’d even played a gig, made his live debut at the city’s Mod Club on July 24, 2011, just under 11 years before he will play its biggest venue, Rogers Centre, next week.

“About 3 million people in Toronto say they were at that show,” al-Jourani laughs. “I’ll never forget, a few weeks earlier I was with Prince and [top Live Nation exec] Steve Herman when he was doing a series of shows there, and everyone was talking about ‘House of Balloons,’” the Weeknd’s galvanizing debut mixtape released earlier that year. “Of course, Prince wanted to know who this Weekend was. We played him the music, and I remember him just giving that smile, you know? Prince was always competitive, always on the trigger. And during those shows, he had people opening for him like Janelle Monae and Esperanza Spaulding and Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. Abel reminds me of Prince in the way he’s able to see what’s going to be happening in the in the culture.”

Not surprisingly, the tour is “a smash,” al-Jourani says. “He’ll sell over 700,000 tickets on these 19 shows, we’ve grossed $100 million, and that’s just North America. He’s joined that pantheon of [stadium-level] artists, and there’s a lot more to come.”

And the Weeknd has planned it all while being immersed in filming “The Idol,” which is expected to premiere later this year. Taylor says, “I think he has a clone that he’s not revealing to the world.”

FRI      8-Jul                Toronto, ON                Rogers Centre*

THU     14-Jul              Philadelphia, PA         Lincoln Financial Field*

SAT     16-Jul              New York, NY             MetLife Stadium*

THU     21-Jul              Boston, MA                 Gillette Stadium*

SUN    24-Jul              Chicago, IL                  Soldier Field*

WED    27-Jul              Detroit, MI                   Ford Field*

SAT     30-Jul              Washington, DC         FedEx Field*

THU     4-Aug              Tampa, FL                  Raymond James Stadium*

SAT     6-Aug              Miami, FL                    Hard Rock Stadium*

THU     11-Aug            Atlanta, GA                 Mercedes-Benz Stadium^

SUN    14-Aug            Arlington, TX               AT&T Stadium^

THU     18-Aug            Denver, CO                 Empower Field at Mile High*

SAT     20-Aug            Las Vegas, NV            Allegiant Stadium*

TUE     23-Aug            Vancouver, BC           BC Place*

THU     25-Aug            Seattle, WA                 Lumen Field^

SAT     27-Aug            San Francisco, CA      Levi’s Stadium^

TUE     30-Aug            Phoenix, AZ                State Farm Stadium*

FRI      2-Sep              Los Angeles, CA         SoFi Stadium*

SAT     3-Sep              Los Angeles, CA         SoFi Stadium*

*With Kaytranada and Mike Dean
^With Snoh Aalegra and Mike Dean

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