The Weeknd’s Super Bowl Halftime performance: pretty great or terrifying?

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At the end of the day, the Weeknd – aka Abel Tesfaye – didn’t bring out any guest stars for his Super Bowl Halftime show. I didn’t believe Abel would be enough, but honestly… it was fine. It wasn’t the best ever – not while Beyonce lives and breathes – but it was far from the worst. I appreciated the fact that Abel took it seriously, wanted to create some really big visuals and that he choreographed the sh-t out of it. Things I didn’t appreciate: the Tethered Zombie Dance Army. It was ghoulish! But maybe it was supposed to be – Abel was so clearly going for a Nu Thriller vibe, a new Michael Jackson energy. Here’s the Halftime Show:

You know what was funny to me? All of the cocaine jokes people were making on Twitter? Once you hear all of Abel’s hits jammed together in 14 minutes, you realize how many of his songs are about cocaine. Except my favorite song of his, “The Hills,” which is about cocaine and a woman who is most likely A*iana G*ande. There were also some volume issues in the first few minutes? But the sound improved. Anyway, I would say… yeah, a pretty good Halftime show. He didn’t need guest stars because he made his good songs sound like major bangers (even when they weren’t). Confession: I enjoyed J.Lo and Shakira a lot more than this.

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122 Responses to “The Weeknd’s Super Bowl Halftime performance: pretty great or terrifying?”

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  1. Lora says:

    it was not good, not at all

    • Smile says:


    • Snappyfish says:

      It was underwhelming at best

    • Mac says:

      To call it underwhelming is extremely polite.

      • I was disappointed by the costuming. *I* have a sequin jacket. I want to see Madonna/Jlo/Beyoncé/Shakira spectacle and some outfits and props I can’t put together in my living room. It’s the half time show. I even have a trifold dressing mirror and some bright lights on a lamp pole.
        The jock strap comment by GreenBunny is gold.

    • a reader says:

      I was enjoying it but it felt too short! When it was over my first comment was, “That’s it??”

      I also felt he presented the show specifically for the audience at home, especially during that section that was performed underneath the stage. Usually the artists play to the stadium, but Abel played to us at home.

      • SomeChick says:

        they get 12 minutes. it’s all very tightly timed because tee bee.
        I noticed he was playing to the cameras more than the stadium too.

        Prince is the GOAT, in general and with is halftime show. Madonna was #2, Bruno Mars blew the Weekned out of the water, and we can argue about the rest of them, but yesterday’s doesn’t make the top 10.

    • Bash says:

      I’m surprised because I actually loved it! Probably my favourite half time show in years. Aside from the volume issue at the beginning, his voice sounded great and the show was well put together and visually interesting. I think he did a great job with it.

      • Grace says:

        I loved it too! But, I am also a big fan of his! It was different, but I LIKED him playing to the camera.

      • jbones says:

        Loved it! When he looked into the camera, it was like we made direct eye contact: WOWZA.

        His voice was beautiful, his artistry and his confidence was exhilarating. I had chills.

        …and a Scarborough Boy <3

    • dj says:

      Sorry. I hated it. The sound was awful!

  2. GreenBunny says:

    They looked like they were wearing jock straps on their face. It wasn’t the worst, but it wasn’t the best. It was just fine.

  3. Alissa says:

    I thought it was incredibly boring, the sound was off more or less the whole time, and his music is not the right fit for the halftime show. if anyone needed a guest star, it was him.

    but I feel like aside from Bruno Mars and Prince, pretty much every halftime show done by dudes ends up being really boring.

    • Alexandria says:

      Oh yes definitely agree on Prince and Bruno Mars.

    • Jayna says:

      U2’s halftime show was phenomenol in that we were still reeling from 9/11, and U2 stepped up to the plate and delivered the kind of show we needed in a big way. I still tear up when I watch it on YouTube.

      • Snappyfish says:

        @jayna you are right about the U2 show. The names of those lost scrolling behind the band & at the end Bono opening up his jacket to show the lining was of the American Flag.

        Prince was great, Bruno Mars was great. Springsteen was great. But U2 was special

    • mellie says:

      Came here to agree with the Prince and Bruno Mars…I cannot get away from those two performances either. The best!

    • LadyMTL says:

      MTE, it was boring…not egregiously bad, but dull and not the right fit for what’s supposed to be a big spectacle. I doubt that anyone will remember this performance in two or three years, not like Prince’s perfection, U2, or even Beyonce’s first one (my personal top 3) which we still talk about years later.

    • Lawcatb says:

      Prince is the standard I judge every halftime show by. And when I still watched football/the SB (#istandwithkap), almost all of them fell woefully short.

      • SomeChick says:

        100%! they are all on YT if you want to go back and compare. I thought Madonna gave an amazing performance too, but no one tops Prince.

    • dj says:

      Totally the best was both Prince and Bruno Mars! If they are not that good I’m not interested. Although I will say I loved Shakira though.

  4. Stef says:

    It was adequate.

    Got excited when I saw all the dancers, thought we’d see some epic choreography with such a large group but they were barely in sync. The big sets were cool and I thought his outfit was great, loved the two tone shoes, but overall, it just made me miss Shakira!

    I only tune in for the half time show and the ads anyway…

    • Abby says:

      I thought that big group of dancers was going to be cool, I thought they were going to go into some step moves, but they were just flailing around. I tried to understand those masks and I just couldn’t.

      I liked the visuals, I liked the song with the violins and he felt like a mix of Michael Jackson and Bruno Mars, but not quite as charismatic as either.

      I couldn’t really understand the words –I’m not familiar with his music anyway, but that makes me laugh that he was actually singing about drugs. My MIL said he said in an interview that he was going to do a “PG” performance and she was relieved (We had kids watching with us) vs. some of the past performances. So, he had clothes on and didn’t dance scandalous or say bad words but cocaine!! hahaha.

      I really liked the show with Shakira and JLo as well. And Beyonce!

  5. Alexandria says:

    Ok I’m based in SEA so it’s a bit of a shock how this event could go on during COVID. Are there people in the stands?

    Anyway I watched the whole thing but I only perked up at the last song cos it’s a great song!

    • Izzy says:

      There were 7,500 vaccinated frontline healthcare workers in the stands; the rest were cardboard cutouts, which is what a lot of major sports have been doing this year.

  6. Rapunzel says:

    With the Weeknd and Donald Trump being there at the same time, Florida must be suffering a coke shortage.

  7. Daphne says:

    It was fitting for the times. Been a fan of Abel since I lived in Toronto when he was starting out. His songs may not have mass appeal but he nailed that set. Plus my dear melancholy is a hugely underrated album. How awesome was it to see a Canadian child of Ethiopian refugees perform at the Super Bowl?

    • atorontogal says:

      So awesome!!!

    • lemonylips says:

      I loved it! It was so fresh. Agree with everything you’ve said.

    • katharine says:

      Agreed–it was great except for the sound problems.

    • Tina says:

      Thank you for saying this!! I know his music may not resonate with the larger population but for Toronto locals who love his music and appreciate the diversity that we do sometimes successfully celebrate, this was a big win. I remember back in the days when he was starting out he played in the basement bar of my university and to see him performing at the Super Bowl in ten years later is truly a beautiful thing. I do think that he was the wrong choice given that generally artists for super bowl have more mass appeal and the weeknd, while incredibly talented with so many beautiful albums under his name, isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Dude is also a crooner but lacking the charisma that Bruno Mars has. But again, that fits his style and that style isn’t going to be beloved in the way so many other more mainstream artists are. I loved the performance hur also I as telling my bf … yeah, this was not the right choice. I know what they were doing using the weeknds major breakout into tiktok to attract more Gen z watchers for football but it just didn’t resonate with regular fans of football I suppose.

      • Fabiola says:

        I like all his songs and they are very popular in the radio. It is very hard for a male singer to put on a big super bowl performance if he doesn’t play an instrument or is not a dancer. If I had not seen lady Gaga’s or shakira/ jlos performances I would say he did fine, but after seeing those it doesn’t compare. I thought he did a lot better than Justin Timberlake amd Coldplay.

    • lemonylips says:

      I see a lot of Bruno Mars comparisons and I don’t get them. I appreciate Bruno, but to me he and The Weeknd are completely different artists. Why are they being compared? I just wonder, no offense. Honestly up until this performance, which was a mini concert of an artist and something I miss, this is the first time that this part of the event didn’t look to me like a USA version of Eurosong (which I love cause it’s fun but it’s also just silly and without any artistic presence) and this time I saw a performance of an artist I like. Even if people don’t like it, it was a concert. And I for one appreciate it.

      • Abby says:

        I am not familiar with his music (just vaguely know him from celebitchy posts) and I’m also only familiar with Bruno as far as what’s been on the radio and his own halftime performance. So listening to The Weeknd’s voice while he was singing in that performance, plus the way he was dressed, sounded/looked a bit like Bruno to me. That same retro feel to the look, their voices sounded similar to me.

    • backyard mogul says:

      Agree! Between the Weeknd at the Super Bowl and Dan Levy doing SNL, it was a great weekend for Toronto!

    • jbones says:


      During the show, U of T tweeted out how it started: Abel at the 2008 University of Toronto talent show (he won)/How it’s going: The Weekend giving it at the Superbowl.

      So cool.

  8. Lou says:

    Every Millennial and Gen Z person on my Facebook feed loved the show and everyone older than that was posting about how much they hated it lol

    • Alissa says:

      I don’t know, I’m very solidly a millennial and I was bored. most of my friends seem to have felt the same way.

      • Case says:

        Same here. Late 20s. I’m aware of who he is but I think his music all sounds the same and his performance was really dull.

      • Larisa says:

        @Case, that’s exactly how I feel. I listen to 1-2 songs, and I like them, I listen more – and they all begin to sound the same.

      • Fabiola says:

        I think he did a lot better than the snooze fest that was Maroon 5.

    • chinchilla queen says:

      I’m 73 as of today, and adore The Weeknd.

    • Alexandria says:

      Millennial here too. It was a good visual show though. Just boring until the end. I still like his songs. Maybe he suits an intimate venue not stadium venues.

    • Chip says:

      I’m 45 and I watched with my 68 year old mother and we both loved it! Neither of us expected to enjoy it, so we were both pleasantly surprised.

    • Emm says:

      I like to call myself a xennial and I thought it was good for a half time show taking place during a freaking pandemic. The sound was definitely off at the beginning but I like his songs and I can imagine they didn’t have a whole lot of opportunity to rehearse with so many people? I mean I’m surprised we are even allowing huge events like this to still happen but hey it’s Florida right? I think it was going to be tough no matter who it was to look like they were being responsible for people health wise and to put on a good show.

      What really annoyed me was everyone pulling their masks down after the game and congratulating each other. Wth was the point of wearing them during the game if you were just going to pull them down and scream in each others faces?

      • SomeChick says:

        they get ONE rehearsal on the field. like the day before I think. Madonna mentioned that she was really concerned about the first transition (to the stage) because of that.

  9. Lucy2 says:

    I liked the set pieces. I don’t really have an opinion on his music, but the beginning was so creepy and then didn’t match the tone of the song at all. I had to forward through the Funhouse part too, that was starting to make me dizzy.
    I know pretty much everyone was wearing a mask, but seeing all those people in one place, all I can think is super spreader.

    • schmootc says:

      My sister and I said the same thing about the funhouse effect. It went on about twice as long as it should have and definitely brought on dizziness.

  10. Case says:

    Super, super underwhelming. Like Maroon 5-level bad. I don’t understand why he didn’t have someone performing with him – he’s simply too new and doesn’t have enough hits or presence to carry the Halftime Show on his own (my dad nearing 60, and I’m sure a lot of other parents watching, have no idea who he is). And his music is just so not it for football. They should’ve paired him with an older artist or someone from another genre to spice things up. I remember loving Aerosmith/Nsync/Mary J. Blige/Britney Spears – a great way to pair “of the moment” artists with a band everyone knows and can enjoy.

    Metallica played Colbert after the game. They would’ve been AMAZING for this!

    • Larelyn says:

      My husband kept going on and on that it should have been Wierd Al (he’s a huge fan). He kept showing me memes during the half time show from folks trying to make Wierd Al happen. Was this just a push from a corner of the internet, or was there a larger effort to get Wierd Al to perform? It totally flew under my radar until my husband showed me yesterday.

      • KhaoManee says:

        LoL Weird Al would have been dope!

      • Lightpurple says:

        Weird Al would have been hilarious but he interacts with the audience a lot in his life shows and that would have been impossible in this time of COVID.

    • Hereforit says:

      Yes kinda surprised that Aerosmith/*NSYNC/Britney/MJB show isn’t getting more love here. That is one of my top three of all time. It’s exactly what I think a Super Bowl show should be.

  11. Becks1 says:

    It was fine. It’s not something people are going to talk about in a year. Heck I’m not sure that many people are going to talk about it today other than to say “it was fine.”

  12. Snuffles says:

    He’s a great artist but I just don’t think his music style suits the Super Bowl. His music is dark and edgy.

    When I think of Super Bowl halftime shows, I think bombastic, over the top, high energy dancing or just rocking the fuck out.

    I THOROUGHLY enjoyed JLo and Shakira last year. Beyoncé was legendary. But I think hands down my favorite of all time was Prince. He brought the house down in a HAIL OF TORRENTIAL RAIN. And his dancers, in 5 inch heels did not miss a step! It was truly awe inspiring.

    • molly says:

      His songs are good, but he’s not a performer on the level required by the Super Bowl. Regardless of singing ability, all the successful acts have been able to PERFORM.

      • Southern Fried says:

        So true.

      • Mrbojanglesisreallyagirl says:

        Agreed!!! My boyfriend is a director and pointed out that while The Weeknd’s music is fantastic and he’s extremely talented, as a performer he doesn’t connect with the audience – it’s about his internal experience instead, which I think is right on.

    • Tiffany :) says:

      I agree, Snuffles. I think the best half time shows have drama. Either it hypes you up and makes you want to party, or it is a crazy spectacle like Prince playing in the rain. The Weeknd’s music is pretty chill, and I don’t know if it worked great for this venue.

  13. Amy Bee says:

    The Weeknd has some bangers. The show was ok not Beyonce level and the sound wasn’t good.

  14. Marni112 says:

    As a Canadian, I am with Daphne. I also thought for once , a show with interesting visuals as opposed to dancers just gyrating around. Also thought there was a bit of an homage to the Handmaid’s Tale.

    • ME says:

      Yeah I think some people are just upset there wasn’t any booty shaking or tits hanging out lol. It was a decent show. I am a huge fan of his, he did the best he could. I just don’t understand how he spent 7 million dollars on the halftime show. I mean how much did he pay the dancers lol?

    • Ashley says:

      I liked all of the homages. It felt like an Us vibe, Thriller, creepy but fantastic at the same time. From a distance the ‘city’ set looked like a graveyard. Perhaps a bit on the nose for covid times but really compelling.

  15. lobstah says:

    I loved it! What a voice. I love his music – so much fun. Also, I appreciate that he had fun with his fashion – the jacket and shoes were slick. Off to start the work with with The Weeknd 🙂

  16. Marigold says:

    I thought it was fantastic.

  17. Chaine says:

    Boring, other than the bandage-faced dance mob completely forgettable.

  18. MarcelMarcel says:

    My faves are tied between these two acts. Beyoncé and her dancers dressed in Black Panthers, great music & iconic visuals. MIA flipping the bird, great music & playful humour (admittedly the joke went down like a lead ballon. But I ❤️ her commitment to her aesthetic).
    I haven’t watched a lot of halftime shows though so… this mightn’t be the ultimate or whatever. They are just the two that I loved enough to rewatch.

  19. Bibi says:

    The socially distanced plastic surgery masked dancers were a good idea to be able to wear a mask for protection and get a choreography done in the safest manner possible.

    • megs283 says:

      Agreed. Though I feel for the dancers’ parents! Their child’s 15 minutes of fame and you can’t even tell it’s them.

    • Nicole says:

      I still think I would have preferred the classic black mask 😀 The dancers were great, but they were creepy!

  20. Dee says:

    I thought it was visually interesting. I can’t imagine the hurdles due to Covid, but I didn’t feel squeamish that he was putting people in danger with the performance. The set pieces and the violins were great. His music has underscored the last few months, especially Blinding Lights. Prince will always own the best halftime performance, but for this year, this was good.

  21. February-Pisces says:

    I liked it, I thought it was great. The Super Bowl is a tough gig for any performer who isn’t a dancer. For singers or bands at can drag a bit as the show is know for its spectacular theatrics. I think dance routines tend to break it up because the show is more of a visual performance than musical. But considering he did it during the pandemic which would have brought so many challenges, I thought it was pretty great.

    I loved shakira/jLo’s performance last year, I think it just exceeded everyone’s expectations. But the shows are always great. I think JTs had some amazing elements to it, but it didn’t mesh well collectively. He included too many middle of the road songs which could have been dropped. I only watched maroon 5’s once, didn’t really like that. I will say I liked beyonces, but I didn’t love it. As a huge fan, it wasn’t her best performance, nothing compared to her coachella show.

  22. Sisi says:

    The blinding light segment was amazing. There was distance, there were masks, but it was massive and felt immersive.

    If you look closely you can see that lots of it was recorded on cameradrones, you can see them fly around. One camerateam has red jackets on to blend into the dancers, but that’s the only one.

    A lot of thought and effort went into it, but nothing distracts you and makes you think of the pandemic. Even Abel seemed to be having fun, and we rarely see that.

    I think it was perfect for this year.

  23. Kelley says:

    Yeah… respectfully disagree. I thought it was visually busy but boring and I think he would have benefited from some guest stars. But hey go Weeknd.

  24. Nicole says:

    I don’t expect a lot from superbowl halftimes, just that I’m entertained, and I was. He doesn’t have the charisma of bruno mars, but I enjoyed it. The white masks creeped me out, but the dancers did great! I had no idea his songs were about coke, That is all I got 🙂

  25. Scal says:

    I’m a big fan of the weeknd so I got all the references as he’s been doing them all year with the videos from this album. The masks were a nod to the storyline when his character had insane michael jackson type plastic surgery. This was a big finale to the rest of that storyline.

    HOWEVER, most people watching aren’t going to have watched all of that are this is their first intro. Staging it as part of that performance art storyline was a mistake IMO. People I saw thought he was a good singer, but were confused by the staging.

    Blinding lights is a BOP, and I’m glad that was the closer.

    • Case says:

      I think this is part of the issue. I’m slightly aware of the “performance art” stuff he’s been doing and I think it’s cool, but something that requires entertaining the masses wasn’t the place to conclude that ongoing storyline. I’m sure it was a cool payoff for the people who understood, but many of us don’t.

    • Juju says:

      Yes he’s talked about how his character’s storyline has to do with plastic surgery and distorting ones self for fame.

      Which I find very interesting since he dated Bella Hadid for so long. From a gossip angle I can’t help but tie his whole theme for this album to their relationship.

  26. MIBound says:

    I heard comments last night about the show, was expecting it to be awful. I really enjoyed his show, and the songs and I am older than millennial or Gen z. The sound was bad, but the production value was a nice touch.

  27. Nic919 says:

    Being from toronto I have to support the local talent and I do like his stuff. I think the bad sound for his vocals really affected the first part because he was getting drowned out by his music. So that didn’t set up a good start. Once he went in the maze and created a thousand memes I felt it picked up and at some point his vocals got better by the time he was on the field.

    Maybe it’s not at a prince or Beyoncé level type performance, but I also wouldn’t say it was Maroon 5 level bad because Adam Levine’s smarm is just something no one else can match.

  28. Elo says:

    I really liked it. I like The Weeknd and I feel like perhaps he’s a little too artsy for this sort of event.
    I guess I was among the few that liked the segment in the hall too. I don’t know- I thought the whole thing was good and I’m not really getting people’s complaints.

  29. Sonia says:

    Did anyone else see SATAN flashing in the background?

  30. lora says:

    Why didn’t he want to want a guest star anyway? Because he was stunned by the Grammys? And that’s why producers of Superbowl was ok with it? It doesn’t make sense.

    Only a few performers could pull off Superbowl as a single act imo and he is not one of them

  31. Emily says:

    It’s hilarious to me that people clutch pearls about Shakira and Jlo’s dancing, but are totally fine with lyrics about cocaine. Fear/policing of women’s sexuality is so blatant when you compare.

    • petee says:

      Exactly!I couldn’t believe how many people complained about that halftime.I loved it.

    • Amando says:

      I think it’s also disturbing how everyone was fully clothed this year because they are men, but women are expected to be in nothing but leotards shaking their butts (like last year).

  32. Delphine says:

    I loved it. I watched it last night and only wish I could have watched live. I thought it was fantastic. It made me get up and dance. I liked how he tied in his months long statement on society/art project by having all the dancers bandaged. I think we’re all missing a deeper meaning there, even if I don’t totally know what that meaning is.

  33. elfie says:

    Not great for me, Maybe I’m old but I thought it was boring. Those bandaged dancers were weird and I really disliked that. I’m with you, Jlo and Shakira were way better.

  34. Keen Kate says:

    Florence and the Machine should do it, as a guest star: ‘What Kind of Man?’ and ‘Ship to Wreck’ would be cool to see.

    Maybe The Foo Fighters or The Killers?

    • Case says:

      Yes to all these ideas! Foo Fighters would be especially solid. It always surprises me that they don’t go for more rock acts, or mixing pop and rock acts. I know rock isn’t super popular right now, but that genre just kinda goes with football to me.

  35. Lacey says:

    I thought it was great considering the limitations he had due to covid. Is he the first not to set up a stage on the field?

  36. Annaloo. says:

    Um…Siouxsie And the Banshee’s song, Happy House, is about cocaine use?!

  37. detritus says:

    I liked it. And the wink. Caught me by surprise how much I liked the wink too.

    Always going to Stan a Canadian boy too

  38. Fani says:

    Loved it.
    Showcased his work.
    Very consistent with his recent videos and his overall brand.
    Very cinematic, very dark/ghoulish, and distinctive.
    He did a Super Bowl halftime show his way, commendable.
    Spent 7 million of his own money – dedication.

  39. C Dubya says:

    correction, the songs were about pepsi, not coke

  40. Amelie says:

    I enjoyed it for the most part. It wasn’t the best half time show I’ve ever seen but not the worst. Beyonce, Bruno Mars, Lady Gaga, and Shakira/J. Lo are some of the most memorable from the past decade for me. Katy Perry and Madonna would be in the second tier along with The Weeknd. I’ll have to watch Prince’s and U2’s performances that have been highlighted in the comments.

    The sound was definitely off though and I’m glad I wasn’t going crazy!! I felt like I couldn’t hear him at all for most of it. As for the face bandages, they’re not COVID masks, they’re part of the concept art for the After Hours album but that reference was definitely lost on most of the viewers.

  41. Jezebel's Lacefront says:

    He’s too niche for the Superbowl. I honestly don’t know his songs, so I wasn’t invested.

  42. observing says:

    I liked the performance. I assume there were restrictions due to Covid so considering we’re in the middle of a global pandemic I thought he did well!

    • L4frimaire says:

      I thought it was pretty good as well. I like his music and thought it was fun. What he was wearing kind of reminded me of something Michael Jackson would wear, with the sequined jacket and the two tone shoes and the gloves ( they looked like OJ Simpson s gloves- yeah I said it). I don’t think he’s a dancer so there wasn’t the usual choreographed sets with sexy backup dancers we’re used to. I liked it.

  43. K says:

    He is very talented and I was excited to see him. But I I kept waiting for…anything. I didn’t expect crazy excitement cause..Covid. but I was disappointed for the most part.

  44. Velvet Elvis says:

    Everyone I know thought it was terrible. I didn’t hate it but it wasn’t the greatest. The Weeknd is a great musical artist, but his type of show isn’t really a good fit for the Super Bowl.

  45. Coffeeisgood says:

    I love The Weeknd but definitely didn’t think his music was a good vibe/fit for SuperBowl. I liked the performance but I feel like if you aren’t a big fan of his it would have seemed really weird.

  46. JillyBean says:

    It sucked. The sound was really bad. As a Canadian, I’m embarrassed lol.

  47. Amando says:

    I liked it! He has a great voice and a great catalog. Definitely better than last year.

  48. Ash says:

    I thought the Weeknd gave an incredible performance. His voice and the musical arrangement was so good despite the sound issue, and the visuals drew me in too. I was more surprised that even my parents loved it, because they usually don’t listen to this genre of music.

  49. Jessica Cozzola says:

    I do not get the hate at all. He’s a breath of fresh air in the pop music world, imo. He’s weird, talented, I love all the 80s vibes in his music. I thought it was great.

  50. Bread and Circuses says:

    That man can really sing, and yes, he tried to bring a big show and mostly pulled it off.

    I’m not even sure why I still had a bit of a “meh” reaction to it. Pandemics make for tough crowds?