Playing on Saturday Night Live is an iconic moment in any artist’s career, and the Weeknd clearly felt honored to perform on the NBC institution. For the day of his appearance on the show, where he offered up a Michael Jackson–infused live take on “Can’t Feel My Face” and a Nicki Minaj–assisted remix of “The Hills,” Abel Tesfaye let Rolling Stone‘s cameras shadow him.
“This has to be the most stressful job on television,” Tesfaye says to an off-camera SNL employee. Tesfaye takes his SNL debut seriously, doing vocal warm-ups backstage and spending the majority of his NYC visit prepping for the appearance, which is sandwiched between stints at the Austin City Limits Music Festival, where the crowd was even louder than he was.
“That’s what you want, right? You want them to be screaming,” he says. “They’re pretty good with control though. You can control them. Like, if I said, ‘Quiet down,’ they’d actually be quiet.”
Tesfaye also reflects on the instances where he has played shows for people who didn’t want to see him, like his opening gig for Justin Timberlake. Later, he admires an autographed photo of Timberlake before getting to sign one of his own for the SNL wall.