A couple golden-voiced singers on divergent career paths opened and closed a packed weekend of shows in Chicago. Toronto R&B artist Abel Tesfaye (aka the Weeknd) kicked things off Friday night with a sensual, rapturous set at the Congress Theater, and dynamic soul musician Bobby Womack closed the second annual Brilliant Corners of Popular Amusements festival Sunday night with a rousing and boisterous performance. Both artists were on the road behind new releases—the Weeknd is readying The Trilogy for Universal Republic, which repackages the three mixtapes he released last year, and Womack dropped The Bravest Man in the Universe through XL back in June—that show off their best sides with few instrumental flourishes.
Womack’s new album is notably coy in comparison to most of the material from his decades-long career; those moody, stripped-down textures were nowhere to be found during his Sunday night set. Backed by a dozen-plus musicians—four horn players, three backup singers, a keyboardist, a bassist, a guitarist, a drummer, a percussionist, and the occasional musician on acoustic guitar—Womack launched into “Across 110th Street” to begin a robust and lively set filled with classic hits. While Womack revels in an aged grace on The Bravest Man in the Universe, he sounded rather youthful in concert, even when he had to take a quick break from meandering around the stage to take a seat.