The Weeknd Downtown Stage, Las Vegas NV, October 24

The Weeknd Downtown Stage, Las Vegas NV, October 24
Photo: Ian Gormely
What a difference a few years makes. Three years after making his tentative stage debut, Abel Tesfaye, aka the Weeknd, is a surprisingly effective performer, ably navigating between the dark numbers that have become the Toronto-based artist's signature.

Opening his set as a black and white video projection, Tesfaye crooned "What You Need" to the crowd like Big Brother turned sexual predator before emerging from underneath the riser that held his ace live band. Working through tracks from Kiss Land and his trio of mixtapes, Tesfaye was able to make his most brooding tracks feel like club bangers as the enthusiastic crowd sung along to every word.

"Can I ask you something?" he said partway through his hour-long set. "Can I get sexy with you Las Vegas?" The crowd responded with an overwhelming, "Yes." Yet Tesfaye's ambitions are still held back by the sameness of all his tracks. "House of Balloons/Glass Table Girls" remains his best track by virtue of its different pace. If he conquers this mountain, the Weeknd will be unstoppable.