When I sat down to speak to La Mar Taylor, who as creative director, works closely with The Weeknd (aka Abel Tesfaye) to develop and deliver their creative vision, the first thing I told him how I was a bit tired after attending a concert the night before. That was true, at least I felt like attended The Weeknd’s live show after watching the HBO concert special titled, The Weeknd: Live At SoFi Stadium, which Taylor also executive produced. To say Live at SoFi was only a concert special is completely underselling what it delivers on screen. The creative ambition Taylor and The Weeknd, delivered into living rooms across the globe is so much more. It is a spectacular for the senses, the soul, and your brain – true escapism set to phenomenal music of The Weeknd..
First and foremost, the special does standalone as an incredible concert experience for the ears with an electrifying set of the artist’s biggest hits; all with pristinely mixed sound. In addition it delivers the feeling of a stadium event into your home. It simultaneously feels like a massive stadium concert and a performance in a more intimate setting providing views that are better than any front row. Viewers are given on-stage access to The Weeknd, all while never having to leave their couches. One of the best aspects was the editing which let you take it all in, avoiding the breakneck pace editing which makes some concert films feel impersonal and standoffish – and there’s a lot to take in.
On top of the in-person concert experience, Taylor and The Weeknd put on a show that is biblical in scale and theme, a combination of theater, music, and performance art. Viewers are taken on a journey as The Weeknd performs in an astonishing one-of-a-kind setting: dozens of models, mood-setting and beat-matching lighting, smoke, lasers, flaming walls of fire. All this and more share the stage with a stunning practical city set, a collaboration with the talented Es Devlin. It is impressive piece of architecture both in its scope and scale with some buildings reaching over 4 stories tall. When I said it is a ‘spectacular,’ I meant it. After watching I truly felt like I was at the concert event of a lifetime.
I had the pleasure of sitting down to speak with La Mar Taylor to explore what went into bringing this show to life. (Full audio of the conversation is below.) While he never spoke the word directly during our conversation, what led the charge was ‘passion’ – a shared passion to have audiences both in-person and at home walkaway feeling they witnessed something special. Taylor produced The Weeknd’s 2021 Super Bowl Halftime show, widely recognized as one of the best halftime shows ever. It was an amazing event within the event that blew viewers away with just how much creativity can be packed into a 14 minute show. The Weeknd: Live At SoFi Stadium tops it, with a parade of creative vision so ambitious that it squeezes in everything from the moon and back; almost literally, as it including a massive model moon which floats illuminated above the stadium.
It truly is a concert you must experience for yourself. Here’s the best part, you can get your ticket to witness this amazing The Weeknd concert – it is waiting for you at home or on your phone, as The Weeknd: Live At SoFi Stadium is streaming exclusively on Max. Enjoy the show!
Listen to my full interview with La Mar below, followed by some excerpts from our conversation.
What his role is as creative director entails:
“It’s like a Rubik’s Cube. It’s just trying to figure out the problem and trying to crack the code. You know, what I mean? That’s it. I feel like every project we’re met with the challenge, and it’s how do we crack this challenge? How do we execute the vision. I think it all just starts with an idea and then right away, the idea is met with the challenge, because we don’t think simple, you know what I mean? We always think out of the fucking box, out of the budget, scope of reality, our business managers and production managers would say. We’ve come so far outside the box right now, how do we turn this into reality? It’s just being met with the challenges and solving the problem. That’s how I look at it. That’s how we approach it.”
Touching on what goes into creating this vision on stage:
“Es Devlin who did the production design, and has been a longtime collaborator of ours, worked to design the show. But the funny thing is, is that this tour before was the stadium tour, it was supposed to be an arena tour. And this was supposed to take place in 2020. And we all know what happened in 2020.” Continued Taylor, “By the time that COVID had cleared up and it was time to go back on the road again. Abel had gotten bigger as an artist – he had gained more fans.We were like, ‘We just did the Super Bowl, it doesn’t make sense for us – The Super Bowl is the biggest stage in the world, right? It doesn’t make sense for us to do the Super Bowl and go back to arenas. So we upped the ante. We said, ‘Yeah, let’s just do stadiums.’ So that initial idea of what you see, what you watched in the HBO special was supposed to be in an arena and we expanded on that quite a bit, added a whole lot more narrative and detail to it.”
On collaborating with The Weeknd who is also his best friend:
“There’s times where he’ll just, like, send a few words over text. And, I mean, that’s all I need to build out the vision. Just knowing someone for that long, you kind of know the inner workings of their brain. And without them signaling anything verbally, you kind of just know what they’re trying to say or what they’re trying to get after. I just feel grateful to be able to do what I do with my friends, family, traveling the world, being in front of millions people, people being inspired by the work that we put out. All that stuff just mean so much to us.”