Badlands, Good Vibes
You probably saw the posters all over town – a profile of a girl with a shock of electric blue hair and fluffy pink coat all in a sepia wash. The posters were part of a campaign to promote Halsey’s first studio album Badlands. A 21-year-old native of New Jersey, Halsey (born Ashley Frangipane) made a name for herself as the most talked about person on Twitter during the South by Southwest music festival before joining Imagine Dragons on their latest tour. Most recently, she has made headlines as the “indie darling” with whom Justin Bieber was collaborating on his latest album.
As part of her Badlands tour, Halsey performed two shows in the intimate Vic Theatre to full houses. The crowd was mostly high school students with the occasional 20-something couple. Fluorescent hair and an undercut or sharp asymmetrical bob were practically de rigeur. The hall vibrated with excitement that erupted into full on fan-girl shrieking when the room went dark and the stage lit up.
Halsey strode out with a swagger and attitude that carried throughout the entire performance. In a bra top and baggy pants, her turquoise hair shorn short and bleached, she commanded the stage, exuding confidence and poise. Launching the show with a powerful rendition of "Blue" from her new album, she invited the crowd to sing along as she knelt on the edge of the stage to touch hands with ecstatic fans. The pulsating purple and blue lights backlit her small silhouette as she strode back and forth, climbed onto equipment, kneeled in front of fans, and hung out with the musicians.
Described as an "angry female record", Badlands meditates on fame, society and messy relationships, and the raw emotion and social justice aspect of her songs came through especially when performed live. The menacing beat of "Castle" and it's take-back-control aspect became very visceral as Halsey sang, accompanied by an enthusiastic crowd. The girl to my left told her friend, "This song is my soul," and belted out the lyrics. Other standout songs included a stripped down, brooding take on her first hit "Ghost," from her EP Room 93, and an aching rendition of "Control," where her delicate vocals clashed with ominous lyrics.
Sprinkled throughout the set list was a great deal of interaction with her (adoring) fans. She often knelt down to touch their hands and paused between songs to talk to the audience, often addressing her discomfort about having finally made it in the big leagues. Despite the performance being followed by a show in Madison Square Garden and then a spot with the Weeknd on tour, she avowed to preferring smaller, more intimate concert spaces like the Vic. Before closing out the show with her anthem-for-millenials hit "New Americana," she said, "This song is about diversity. This song is about the youth collective, just like you guys."
The smaller, cozier space of the Vic Theatre called for a more relaxed approach to concert dressing. An easy t-shirt dress is comfortable and breezy but still warm thanks to its long sleeves. Tall boots and knee-high socks easily transition to a post-concert dinner outing. Topped off with a motorcycle jacket and a small cross-body bag, you have the perfect concert outfit - put together but comfy enough to dance around in all night.
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