Halsey, PartyNextDoor, Charli XCX
October 25, 2017
Nothing is guaranteed when you’re an artist. When success comes, you have to make the most of it, because rarely does anyone stay on top forever. You can go from having one of the most downloaded songs of all time to playing a half-empty House of Blues in just a few years. It happens.
Halsey is on the road for her first arena tour, largely behind the success of her inescapable smash with The Chainsmokers, “Closer.” Sure, the second level of the arena was closed, but it’s still a pretty wild turn of events for an artist who didn’t shy away from the fact her last headlining gig in town didn’t sell out a smaller venue. How would she use all that extra space? Does her catalog lend itself to arenas? What does an arena-sized Halsey show look like?
The answers to those questions, in order, are: create a stage that Kanye would likely approve of; hell yes; one of the fiercest you’ll see.
Since self-plagiarism is bad, this isn’t going to be yet another review that talks about Halsey’s confidence or aggression. Those are both in abundance – you have to have tons of faith in what you do to end a show in Houston with a song called “Hurricane” at this point – and they’re both important to making what Halsey does work, but this wasn’t a show that was great simply because the artist at the center of the show was great. Everything about the Hopeless Fountain Kingdom tour is top-notch, from the stage to the lighting to the graphics to the choreography to the performance.
Halsey has put on good shows in Houston before, but this was another level. It was smart and elegant, all in the service of a performer who was commanding all night long. It is not easy to step into a room the size of the Toyota Center and largely be the only person onstage; even if you’re not putting on a Gaga or Perry-sized extravaganza, you at least have your backing band right behind you. But for the most part, it was just Halsey going up the giant digital staircase that anchored the show, and something about the combination of her voice, her moves and the staging around her just felt right, as if these were the buildings she was supposed to play in all along.
The show started with lights flashing on giant white curtains concealing the stage. And there was this moment in between where “The Prologue” ended and “Eyes Closed” began that out of the blue Kanye blasted over the PA, a snippet of “Hold My Liquor.“ In the moment it was baffling because it felt so random, but more and more I find myself thinking it was a signal that what we were about to experience wasn’t going to be a run-of-the-mill pop show but something much grander. Halsey called her shot as one of the current greats, and then she proved it. I hope this isn’t the last time she does.
So, How Were the Openers? How many great hooks does Charli XCX have to her name? Even if you think her hooks are silly, there’s no denying they’re catchy as all getout. The crowd might have been a little soft on her to start, but once she launched into “I Love It,” her collaboration with Icona Pop, they were electric for the rest of the set, loudly singing the hooks to “Boys,” “Fancy” and “Boom Clap.” Of course, they didn’t have to be electric for long considering that she only performed 20 minutes when she really should have had a full 30.
You know who had too much time onstage? PartyNextDoor. Yes, PND can sing, and yes, PND has some perfectly fine tracks, but judging from this performance, he might not have an ounce of stage presence. With his vocals buried in a bad mix, PND could have salvaged the performance by really putting some extra energy into things, but not only was the set low-energy, PND looked and acted like he would have rather been anywhere else. Not what you’d expect out of one of Drake’s artists.
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Personal Bias: I keep a playlist on my phone of ten songs that I can always listen to no matter what; I highly recommend you do this. “Colors” has a semi-permanent spot in the playlist.
The Crowd: An interesting mix of party people and parents with small children. Good on the open-minded parents out there.
Overheard in the Crowd: “Oh, it’s a good truck! Oh, it’s just ice cream…” said someone after the show, a bit of sadness in his voice once he realized what the truck is. Which is wild, because ice cream is always something worth celebrating.
Random Notebook Dump: The concert started, finished, I drove home and the Astros game still wasn’t over. Glad I got to see the final out. #EarnHistory