The Weeknd Covers Beyonce in Spellbinding Billboard Hot 100 Headlining Set

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Billboard
The Weeknd performs during Billboard Hot 100 Festival - Day 1 at Nikon at Jones Beach Theater on Aug. 22, 2015 in Wantagh, New York.

He performed numerous tracks from his forthcoming sophomore album and covered Beyonce's "Drunk In Love."

The Weeknd closed out the first night of Billboard Hot 100 Festival in style with a mesmerizing, after-dark set beside the Atlantic Ocean.

The allure of hits like "Can't Feel My Face" proved so strong that even the U.S. Coast Guard pulled up alongside the Nikon at Jones Beach Theater. Pyrotechnics accompanied set closer "The Hills," as the artist born Abel Tesfaye transitioned from woozy dirges to radio picks with relative ease. 

Billboard Hot 100 Fest Breaks Single Day Attendance Record at Nikon at Jones Beach Theater

Believe it or not, there was a time when the Weeknd never seemed like he'd be a singles artist. When he hit the scene in 2011 with the mind-blowing mixtape House of Balloons, he established himself as an expert architect of drug-addled soundscapes. Fortunately, he hasn't left that persona in the past. 

 

The #Weeknd stole the show. "Girl I do this often."

A video posted by Alex Dejoie (@alexhooligan_) on Aug 22, 2015 at 9:41pm PDT

He hit the stage Saturday night (Aug. 22) with "High For This," the opening track from House of Balloons. The track has a rock backbone even on the mixtape, and live -- backed by a drummer and guitarist -- that vibe came off even stronger. That didn't mean he couldn't get a groove going, either. Performing the Hot 100 chart-topper "Can't Feel My Face" as his next-to-last song, there was plenty of dancing throughout the massive crowd. 

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That held true over the course of the set. Tesfaye is an R&B singer, backed by a rock band, who covers Beyoncé's "Drunk in Love" live. It all fits together into a compelling 21st century rock star persona that was out in full force on Long Island.

His sophomore album Beauty Behind the Madness drops Aug. 28, and judging from the reaction and turnout last night, there's even more reason to get excited.  

Billboard Hot 100 Fest