With the COVID-19 pandemic still in full swing, The Weeknd had to up the ante for his halftime show at Super Bowl LV, which only 25,000 fans were allowed to attend — surrounded by 30,000 cardboard cutouts — in a nearly 66,000-seat stadium. And up the ante he did.
The three-time Grammy winner, 30, dazzled on stage at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida, on Sunday, February 7, during a break in the NFL championship game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Over the course of 14 minutes, he took the crowd — and millions of viewers at home — through his music catalog with singles including “The Hills,” “I Feel It Coming” and an orchestral version of the Fifty Shades of Grey song “Earned It.”
The Weeknd (real name Abel Tesfaye) kicked off his high-energy performance with “Starboy” in front of a massive choir in the stands. He wore his signature red sequined jacket over an otherwise all-black outfit. He then took viewers into a gold, mirrored room, surrounded by a group of lookalikes with bandaged heads. Toward the end, he and his backup dancers made their way to the field to “House of Balloons” from his 2011 debut mixtape of the same name. He closed his set with “Blinding Lights” as fireworks went off above the stadium.
In the days leading up to the big gig, the Toronto native revealed that he had used $7 million of his own money to give the audience a halftime show they would never forget.
“We’ve been really focusing on dialing in on the fans at home and making performances a cinematic experience, and we want to do that with the Super Bowl,” he teased in his recent Billboard cover story.
The NFL announced in November 2020 that The Weeknd had signed on to headline the halftime show, following in the footsteps of iconic performers such as Michael Jackson, Prince, Madonna, Beyoncé and Lady Gaga. He said in a statement at the time that he was “humbled, honored and ecstatic” to be in the same position as the acts “we all [grew] up watching.”
To celebrate the milestone, the chart-topper released a greatest hits-style album titled The Highlights on Friday, February 5, which his team said in a press release offers new listeners “a rich foray into some of the iconic artist’s best and favorite work.” In addition to his biggest solo hits, the compilation includes collaborations with Ariana Grande (“Love Me Harder”), Kendrick Lamar (“Pray for Me”) and Daft Punk (“Starboy” and “I Feel It Coming”).
The Weeknd also announced an ambitious 104-date world tour named after his 2020 album, After Hours. It is set to begin in January 2022 and will travel across North America and Europe through November. Tickets go on sale Monday, February 8, at 10 a.m. local time.