Live: High For This. The Weeknd, Wilton's Music Hall.

New doesn't necessarily a better entity make. Wilton's Music Hall, for instance, emphatically branded 'The City's Hidden Stage' and secreted down Aldgate alley is an unfeasibly incredible and therefore equally amazingly underused venue. We'd immediately implore you to get the heck down there with disconcerting insistence, were listings anywhere near as forthcoming as Abel Tesfaye may tonight periodically appear when nudely live; stripped of his beloved bloody Auto-Tune. A petition at its modest entrance pleas for salvage: Wilton lies on his proverbial deathbed and although they that tonight line the balcony (Katy Perry and Florence; Def Jam, Universal and Mercury chief execs etc.) could remedy his every ailment in a whimsical instant, the latter are looking to slap down some serious dollar on something a little more pristine.
Tesfaye is just that: having made his EU debut on Spanish soils at Primavera Sound last Weeknd [sic], he's whipped up something of a frenzied raucous before even so much as setting foot in London for this, his live UK inception. Tickets are touted for a minimum of thrice any initial price and anguished appeals have been persistently expressed – oft wretchedly so – via Twitter for the past few weeks. Once while trundling down Richfield Avenue I saw a sign inciting the trading of the soul for a weekend ticket to that gritty old rock behemoth Reading Festival. "Will do anything 4 a ticket" read another, and tonight one may anticipate a comparable level of hysteria. Taking no chances, my ticket relocates to top pocket. Instead, however, it's as quiet round these parts as Wilton's is quaint. If they here congregated are itching to glimpse the both focal and vocal point of The Weeknd then they're keeping their emotions as guarded as the evening's guestlist.

A guestlist anyone and everyone, whether they be anyone or no one presumably tried to cram into, primarily as £22.25 is fairly extortionate for a first show. Granted, Tesfaye has to pay the way of he, his evident ego, YouTube-dredged guitarists and XO-embellished kicks. For tonight incontrovertibly feels like an arena (only intermittently) spectacular relocated to a dilapidated Music Hall left for dead; to fester sometime toward the end of the 19th-century – even if it may look like beached coral reef, such is its rusty wonder. If it now may face an uncertain and moreover unanswerably inactive present and with it future, teetering somewhere or other precarious between institutionalised demise and eventual collapse then although Tesfaye's purported world of parties, after parties, Wicked Games and Glass Table Girls may seem rosier than the most vividly pigmented rosé even his destiny remains undecided. Lord knows we've ample time for deliberation on these sorts of debates as we impatiently await, a tag team DJ duo dishing out some deep, slinky house stylings prior to the arrival of he of the afro as though hauled through the thistliest of hedges frontwards.

Were anything firmed up tonight or some contract or other signed it may be deemed somewhat hasty: for The Weeknd is still far from finished product. Although his appeal may already sit in some snuggly niche between cult status and jittering mainstream rabidity – modernity is injected into the venue's general ancientness as it swiftly becomes smartphone central up in here; the very things on which many an exorbitant ticket was presumably bought – Tesfaye's voice cracks worrisomely on his irksome MJ tribute D.D. Where it's otherwise smoothness smothered atop song, it here sounds more scuffed than Robbie Williams' bellowed out from Buckingham Palace.

Set beyond more aloft screenage than an entire Apple Store (yes, that's a heavily manipulated iPhone photo above), he bundles onstage to lean into the sonorous cut 'n' thrust of High For This. Like sordid powder salaciously smeared about somewhat more sensitive parts, it's something of a tease as it's followed up with the comparatively limp Life Of The Party and an equally flaccid Lonely Star. However the latter tumbles – almost as though stupefied – into the segueing Next as the mixtape catalogue is, well, mixed. It's an invigorating way around things although that it's all entirely scripted – or setlisted – again takes off any spontaneity and indeed with it, edge. Showmanship too is bland, blunt and ultimately disengaging: beyond the odd spasmodic incitement of fanatical squeal ("London: for me and for you, just make some noise", "Everyone put your hands up one time", "London: less' do this", "London I love you" etc.), he avows to having come "all the way from Toronto" to be with us (factually incorrect) and yet he has that same compelling, utterly mystifying allure to him as does Grimes, his every disciple here congregated observing his every commotion through a first-gig glint in the eye. Or through luminous LCD; either or. And this is already a whites-of-eyes affair. However whichever way, right now you just can't take eyes nor ears off him, for he is the most captivating man in pop. Or R'n'B. Or whatever pigeonhole we're vaingloriously attempting to stuff him and his work into at the minute.

He is the man of the minute, and this moment is his: both "potential" and "attention" protrude as two lyrical lynchpins of both tonight and Tesfaye's cultural outpour to date and although it's wholly fortunate that the two rhyme, if he's evidently graced with the former then he comparably obviously craves the latter and he now has it clinched undividedly. Yet other lyricisms sit a little less comfortably: for instance the N-bomb drops fairly ruinously both on the nondescript flutter of The Birds and deeply groove-laden House Of Balloons cut The Morning. Tesfaye is purely too nice for such racial derogation. However following on from the blowout six string histrionics of The Knowing, you half expect him to ease into umpteen takes on Niggas In Paris.

If up until now he may have swerved from Craig David-esque "making love" rhetoric (The Zone) to that glib old reciprocal Drake collab Crew Love, he hits a quite gallivanting stride late on as a ballistic denouement of The Morning, House Of Balloons and an excruciatingly premeditated encore of Wicked Games – Tesfaye's listing of after party paraphernalia backed only by oh-so-session-it-stings electric – although as he flicks one final pose and exudes one last schmoozy "London: I fucking love you", rancourous boos echo about. They refractedly reflect such sentiment for at only a touch over an hour he's gone just as he's got going.

It's all too easy to obliterate Tesfaye's age from thought or to exempt it from critical explication but having come to prominence just last year, his heedless affirmation of "I'm only 21 so I do it when I wanna" on Gone is still only an annum out of actuality. Once he hits twenty-five or so who can tell how he'll feel dishing out such sense of youthful abandonment although whether or not he'll still even be operating artistically by then is highly debatable. As good as House Of Balloons may indubitably have been, followup mixtapes Thursday and most recently Echoes Of Silence couldn't even so much as cling onto the celebratory strings dangling from the debut exposure and tonight waxes and more pertinently wanes in quality similarly. Crowd reaction may be gauged by the number of gadgets extended overhead and as glare momentarily dwindles, attentions begin to sag. I, for one, discover just how desperately in need of a new phone I am and judging by the resolutions of those thrust unapologetically in the face throughout I resolve to opt for an iPhone or other when that particular contract eventually expires.

Thus with endless arms surely aching from holding these goddamn iPhones, iPods and even a lone iPad aloft – a perturbing Sign “” the Times most certainly – and with voice boxes dented by excessive scream, we disperse homeward. Many more than probably will go on to relive a copiously pixelated version of the show. This technology may be plaguing live music around about now and although a phone should never be afforded the opportunity to ruin a show; a nonfictional, human experience, well, if you've forked out a three-figure sum on an hour's worth of what may by and large be deemed entertainment you can surely do as you bloody well please, no?

Somewhere in amongst the irradiate screens etc. a star is here being born, as Tesfaye attracts and assumes all within earshot. Yet as one dawns, another dwindles and a spare thought ought to be held back for this comparatively antiquated and irrefutably excellent venue that's now in need of life, and love, and maybe a little spare change. We, and Tesfaye, and they that look down upon him can certainly relinquish some shrapnel at least.