By Harron Walker
The Weekend kicked off the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards with a live performance of “Blinding Lights” from a staggering stage overlooking New York City, and, well, you didn’t think he was going to give us “Blinding Lights” without literally trying to blind us with some lights, did you?
Performing the chart-topping After Hours track before a live audience for the first time since taping Saturday Night Live in March, the Canadian hitmaker began his set lying on the floor, bloodied and bruised, as if waking up from a particularly debaucherous night—much like the song’s deeply chaotic Anton Tammi-directed video. After stumbling his way through flashing blue and orange light fixtures, Abel found his way to the edge of the Edge, a 100-story-high sky deck atop one of Manhattan’s many skyscrapers.
A circling helicopter amped up the tension — who is she, and what does she want? Then, suddenly, on the Hudson River in the distance, a wall of fireworks exploded behind him. Incredible lights! The lights? They were top tier.
In his new Esquire cover story, the Weeknd, who’s up for six awards tonight — including Artist of the Year, Video of the Year, Best R&B, Best Direction, Best Editing, and Song of the Summer — explained that “Blinding Lights” is about “driving to this person [you want to see] and you’re just blinded by streetlights, but nothing could stop you from trying to go see that person, because you’re so lonely.” Seems like there’s no better place to perform a song about loneliness than from the sky deck of a Manhattan skyscraper, like some kind of 2020 version of Rapunzel — and months into quarantine, no less. The yearning! The yearning… I can’t feel my face, but I can definitely feel that.
Tonight’s performance of “Blinding Lights” marks the second time that the Weekend has performed at the VMAs. He previously rocked the ceremony with one of his most iconic past hits, “Can’t Feel My Face,” back in 2015.
The 2020 VMAs have kicked off across MTV's linear and digital platforms, as well as with several outdoor performances around New York City. Find the complete winners list here and everything else you need to know at vma.mtv.com.