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The Weeknd’s First Stadium Tour Date Postponed Due to Canada-Wide Phone Network Outage

An all-day outage of the Rogers Wireless phone network has wreaked havoc across all of Canada.

The Weeknd
Mike Oberlies

UPDATED: Friday’s opening date of the Weeknd’s “After Hours Til Dawn” stadium tour in his hometown of Toronto was postponed due to a nationwide outage of the Rogers Wireless company, one of Canada’s biggest phone networks, which wreaked havoc on the country for most of the day.

The announcement was made shortly after doors were scheduled to open at the Rogers Centre (formerly the Skydome) — the city’s largest venue, which, in a painfully ironic twist, is named after and sponsored by the affected wireless company. It is a cashless venue and all ticketing, food, beverage and merch sales are tied to the network; the Weeknd’s technologically complex production and venue security presumably relied heavily on it as well.

At around 11 p.m. — the time most large-venue concerts are drawing to a close — Rogers announced service was “starting to recover.

In a message to fans posted on his Instagram story, the Weeknd wrote, “I’m crushed & heartbroken. Been at the venue all day but it’s out of our hands because of the Rogers outrage. Operations and safety are compromised and I tried my absolute best. This one hurts the most, and we will make thjs show happen, but unfortunately not tonight. I know how long you’ve been waiting and how hard a lot of you worked to make it to the show and experience this special moment with me. I can’t wait to see you all.”

A statement from tour promoter Live Nation reads: “The Weeknd was onsite and ready to play but due to the nationwide Rogers network outage the show planned for this evening at Rogers Centre will be postponed as the venue’s operations & infrastructure are not possible until full service is back.

 Please hold on to your ticket. Updates on a new date coming soon.”

The outage, which began at around 4:30 a.m. ET, illuminated just how much modern society has come to rely on cellular coverage: Throughout the country, government and banking systems, parking and countless other businesses were incapable of processing transactions. Restaurants were forced to serve on a cash-only basis; some of the longest lines in downtown Toronto on Friday were for ATM machines. Cafes and any business offering free wifi were packed.

Sources tell Variety that the lateness of the announcement, which came at the time doors were scheduled to open and fans had been waiting outside for hours, was due to the Weeknd’s team trying to find a way to perform the show up until the last possible minute.

Surprisingly, a couple of blocks away from the Rogers Centre, Roger Waters’ concert at the ScotiaBank Arena went ahead as scheduled on Friday night. A large sign outside the venue offered free wi-fi inside the arena, listed a website for assistance with mobile tickets and noted that credit card payments were accepted inside although debit card transactions were not able to be processed; a common situation due to the outage. It seems possible that the reason the concert was able to proceed is that ScotiaBank Arena may not be a Rogers-only venue.

Amid the outage on Friday afternoon, Kye Prigg, Rogers’ senior vice-president of access networks and operations, told CBC’s “Power & Politics, “We don’t understand how the different levels of redundancy that we build across the network coast to coast have not have not worked.”

While anyone not in Canada might think the postponement was an overreaction, an American equivalent would be a nationwide shutdown of Verizon or T-Mobile service. The level of disruption was a sobering reminder of what would take place in the event of a cyberattack.

In fact, just a month before the outage, Canadian Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino said the country’s government was on “high alert” for cyberattacks by Russia and others in the wake of the increasingly hostile international relations caused by the war in Ukraine.

“I cannot emphasize enough how important it is that, in the current geopolitical environment in which we find ourselves, that we are very much on high alert for potential attacks from hostile state actors like Russia,” he said during an appearance at the country’s House of Commons public safety committee. He described those attacks as possibly coming in the form of cyberattacks and ransomware “which look to identify potentially valuable targets to Canadian interests like critical infrastructure but equally, to sub-national targets, different orders of government, different sectors to the economy.”