Even in a pandemic, the VMAs found a way to start off their show with a bang: The Weeknd performed his smash single “Blinding Lights” 1,100 feet above New York, from the city’s highest observation deck, Edge at Hudson Yards.
Weeknd was in the guise of the busted-nose character he portrays on his latest album, “After Hours,” and the performance began in a way similar to the album’s videos, which depict the character having a surreal and absolutely terrible night in Las Vegas. Weeknd was shown waking up as if he’d been knocked out, rising slowly to his knees and then standing — but then the performance was vintage VMAs, with helicopter shots, loads of lights, an illuminated staircase and of course the lights of New York all around him, which are dazzling even in a socially distanced city.
The performance, which was shot earlier in the week, climaxed with fireworks over the Hudson River — although they were computer-generated, unless we somehow missed them over the week.
Although his world tour in support of his blockbuster album “After Hours” has been postponed like every other major tour, The Weeknd — who was the subject of an in-depth Variety cover story in April — has had no problem keeping busy. He dropped a new song with Calvin Harris on Friday, played a virtual concert on TikTok earlier this month that raised more than $350,000 for Global Justice Initiative — part of $2.15 million he’s donated or raised for coronavirus relief, Black Lives Matter causes and Lebanon explosion relief over the past couple of months — released several new songs and remixes for expanded editions of “After Hours,” he cowrote and lent his voice to episodes of “American Dad” and “Robot Chicken,” and dropped several videos for songs from the album.