In the past few days, Halsey has played at Wembley Stadium and joined her new BFFs in BTS across the channel at Paris’ Stade de France. Tonight (June 10), though, she’s playing a tiny London show at Camden’s Electric Ballroom. Fans have queued in the rain to get to the front.
“You fucking idiots,” Halsey wryly says, grinning in the spotlight. “That means more to me than I could explain, but, because of it, I’m going to give you the best show of your lifetime.” True to her word, she gives everything she has for the next two hours.
Within the first 30 seconds of set-opener ‘Castle’, CO2 cannons are exploding from the stage and Halsey is demanding more reaction, more excitement and more participation. From the industrial breakdown of ‘Eyes Closed’ through to the stomping march of ‘Heaven In Hiding’ and the twinkling promise of ‘Hurricane’, a reminder that “you don’t belong to anyone but yourself”, the star offers comfort, encouragement and engagement throughout the set.
Halsey has always managed to straddle the worlds of radio mega-hits and alt-pop adventure, but tonight she brings both sides together with wicked balance. ‘New Americana’ still strides forward with wide-eyed confidence, while ‘Without Me’ offers resilience through heartbreak and mass connection. Elsewhere, the likes of ‘Young God’, ‘Roman Holiday’ and ‘Walls Could Talk’ are sung back at her with deafening power.
“I was thinking about how hard it was to go from being a person who wanted to please absolutely fucking everybody to a person who did not give a single fuck what anyone thought about them at all,” she offers before the glittering snarl of ‘100 Letters’. There’s a freedom in her attack.
Amid the deep cuts, global smashes and old favourites, it’s her latest songs that hit the hardest. Yungblud, witnessing his first ever Halsey headline show, dives onstage to tear into ’11 Minutes’. “Fuck me! You’re loud, aren’t ya,” he beams, the ebullient star knowing a thing or two about volume himself. “I was stood up there and I was so fucking moved by the connection that you and her have with each other. You’re all like a family, and I love that.”
It’s ‘Nightmare’ that really sets itself apart as a moment, though, the cry of “I’m tired and angry but somebody should be” perfectly capturing the tipping-point energy of 2019. “As much as I like to get onstage and pretend I’m the ‘Nightmare’ girl all the time, the reality is that I’m not,” she says. “I’m soft. Recognising your ability to be tough but also vulnerable is a really beautiful thing.”
Tonight has everything. Halsey leaves everything onstage in a soul-baring performance, and the room responds in kind. The crowd empties their lungs, believing in every word with thunderous pride – but also standing whisper-quiet as Halsey encourages acceptance and safe spaces during a speech that highlights the very real dangers faced by the LGBTQ community. She asks the crowd to make a promise to stay together and refuse fear.
She wears a shirt which displays the faces of Melania Geymonat and her partner Chris, the lesbian couple who were assaulted during a homophobic attack on a London bus on May 30. It’s a powerful moment of unity that goes way beyond simply adding a rainbow to your profile picture or logo for Pride Month.
Halsey writes pop anthems that crunch with the grit of the everyday, and it’s on those jagged edges that people can find themselves. “The radio hits are really important to me, because it means my voice travels across the entire world,” Halsey explains before the closing eruption of ‘Gasoline’. “But what’s more important than the radio is the connection that I have with you guys.” Tonight, that’s unbreakable – and it’s getting stronger by the day.
Hold Me Down
Heaven In Hiding
Walls Could Talk
Bad At Love
Devil In Me
Is There Somewhere
11 Minutes (feat. Yungblud)