In 2015, Halsey performed at the Masonic Temple as part of the annual Viva PHX festival. She played to a crowd of about 80 people that night.
Last night, the electro-pop singer returned to downtown Phoenix to perform at Talking Stick Resort Arena. She was clearly wowed by the attendance, as she referenced that past performance to a massive Halloween night crowd.
Since that show a couple of years ago, Halsey’s music seems to have infiltrated the lives of young pop fans with dramatic, heartbreak-centric, soul-laden pop songs. Because last night’s crowd was closer to 18,000.
Most of those seats were filled by women between 15 and 25 who clearly have been using the singer’s two releases – Badlands and Hopeless Fountain Kingdom – to soundtrack their own lives. Halsey dropped four singles from that first record, including "New Americana," which worked its way onto the Billboard charts. "Colors" and "Castle" are two other earworms that helped build up her fan base.
Halsey's set started off with “The Prologue,” with the singer adding a bit of hip-hop flair to the prelude from Romeo and Juliet. The stage was veiled in a flowy white curtain that came to life with swirly red lights.
That sheath was lifted for “Eyes Closed,” to reveal Halsey, clad in a glittery halter top, shorts, and an equally bedazzled fuzz-trimmed jacket, standing at the top of stairs that ran the width of the stage. Her band was stationed at the bottom left.
She worked in a few dance moves as she descended the steps, a sole dancer coming out to join her during “Hold Me Down.” The crowd was already pretty riled up, but things went bonkers when it was time for “Castle."
Halsey asked the audience to bounce along. And when she didn’t feel like that response was springy enough, she commanded it.
“Maybe I didn’t make myself clear, I want every single person in this room to bounce.” Responsive to that show of authority, delivered with a little camp, the room got to bouncing.
Halsey seems to like being Halsey, flaws and all, and it might be that messy sense of self that creates the connection those trying to figure shit out in life.
As a person who was once homeless and estranged from her parents, who's now playing to whopping crowds around the globe, she offers a sense of hope through personal power, emphasizing that in empowering battle cries like, "Remember, you don't belong to anyone but yourself."
Interacting with the crowd was a big part of the night. She did a couple of rounds of crowd competition, having the opposite sides of the room cheer to see which was louder. And she chatted about a few different topics.
Before going into "Strangers," a song from her new release that features Lauren Jauregui, Halsey announced that she's a “proud member of the LGBTQ community,” and she wanted members of that community, and everyone, to know that her concert was a safe space.
The singer identifies as bisexual and has used her music and other media, like one of the videos for her single "Ghost," to show same-sex relationships. She's taken some heat for her bi identity, too, with some mags like BuzzFeed accusing her of downplaying her queerness to cater to a hetero audience.
Outspoken, she hasn't let those comments slide without response. Her overall firm stance, while still exuding vulnerability, has seemed to work in her favor, attracting a slew of fans who like the fearlessness she promotes both personally and in her music.
She talked a little bit about her new record, and as she did some running around — on and off stage, and down the extended runway — she reflected on that activity by announcing, "I can put on a show!"
Her energy and her own appreciation of her ability to entertain easily guided her through a bunch of songs, with not one getting a lukewarm response from the crowd.
There was “Heaven in Hiding,” “Roman Holiday,” and “Alone,” to name a few that happened before the piano rolled out and she did “Closer,” the Chainsmokers song she was featured on.
Her voice sounded fairly strong, overall, whether she was delivering her quick bits of rap or really pouring out raspy soul. But the beats were sometimes a little too hearty and drowned her out a tad.
She brought a sense of intimacy to the room during “Sorry,” as she sat at the front of the stage for the moody ballad
The press has been actively following Halsey and current boyfriend, G-Eazy, capturing moments of the two looking pretty happy. Most recently, they were seen out dressed as characters from The Great Gatsby for a Halloween event. Though those reports seem to find her looking giddy with her guy, that didn't detract from her force when delivering "Bad at Love."
Her stage setup didn’t change, aside from the screen projections. But her outfits did — a few times. A red onesie with knee-high boots was one look, a hoodie dress was another. The audience clearly dug her style, as it was matched in sparkle, lace, and sheer fabrics by plenty of attendees.
Everyone also dug when she ran off the right side of the stage and up the stairs into the audience for some hugs and quick selfies. Luckily it was a short-lived move, ‘cause there were some teens set to trample just to get closer to their new favorite diva.
Halsey was at her most ferocious with “Gasoline,” from the deluxe edition of her first record, Badlands, where she asks, “Are you insane like me? / Been in pain like me?”
The song resonated with the crowd like no other, and when it came to the line, “Are you a fucking hurricane like me?” Halsey let the crowd sing it each time. It was as if some rallied an army of angst-y teens, because the collective shout was intense; "fiery growl" might be more right on.
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Twenty-four songs from when she started, her rowdy end seemed only to fuel her.
She didn’t lie, she can put on a show.
1. "The Prologue"
2. "Eyes Closed"
3. "Hold Me Down"
5. "Good Mourning"
6. "Heaven in Hiding"
8. "Roman Holiday"
9. "Walls Could Talk"
10. "Bad at Love"
14. "Angel on Fire"
16. "Don’t Play"
18. "Is There Somewhere"
19. "Now or Never"
21. "Young God"
Last Night: Halsey’s Hopeless Fountain Kingdom Tour.
The crowd: Teen screamers.
Overheard: “I totally think that, like, G-Eazy loves Halsey more than he’s ever loved anyone.”
Notebook dump: I didn't catch the first opener, Charli XCX, but did get to check out PARTYNEXTDOOR's entire set. Unfortunately for the Canadian rapper, the sound was inconsistent and the music way overtook the vocals, but there were some moments of clarity that let his rap and smooth delivery of R&B ballads shine.