Halsey

So, um, I went to a Halsey concert last night. Halsey is … I’m trying to describe her without using the word “brand”. She’s a pop singer, basically, in a bad-girl mode. I’ve heard her compared to Lady Gaga, maybe because she performs in burlesque-esque costume, but her lyrics’ abstract angst remind me a little of Linkin’ Park.

Judging by the crowd in attendance, I am way too old and male to go to a Halsey concert. In general, Halsey is not for people who care about things like acknowledging other members of the band (they were hidden so completely I’m literally not sure how many there were), live music talent (the backing track amounted to lip-sync, typical for pop stars), or audience asides that make sense (at one point she promised vociferously to “protect” everyone in the audience and “keep you safe” for the rest of our lives). Also, if you tend to view peppering one’s lyrics with references to drug use and sex acts as evidence of cynical commercialized titillation, you may not be the target audience.

Nonetheless, it was a heck of a show. Three songs in, Halsey stopped mid-chorus, cursed at some unspecified technical difficulty, and declared a total restart … and they started from the top, doing the first two songs again. At the third song it become clear why, more or less. Partly, the sound mix may have been off. It sounded to me like we were hearing too much of the undistinguished live vocals, and not enough of the processed backing track. But mostly, I think the third video failed to turn on.

Modern pop concerts, at least the sort that play in Madison Square Garden, seem to generally be performed in front of a cinema-size movie screen showing a custom-made video sequence. Halsey’s animation studio did a great job providing an atmospheric backdrop for a stage show that otherwise would have just been her slinking around the stage in lingerie. (Not that I necessarily would have complained.)

What I haven’t seen before, in any concert I can remember, is this level of pyrotechnics. As the finale approached, the show successively revealed batteries of cloud guns, flamethrowers, fog machines, spark sprayers, and eventually confetti cannons. There was something calmly surreal, in the topmost balcony, about seeing a few flakes of confetti drifting lazily upward from the maelstrom in General Admission.

Call it the overview effect.

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