2015 was the year that indie pop princess queen Halsey took our ears - and hearts - by storm. Badlands is effortlessly one of the more audacious debut LPs to drop in recent years, but infinitely more so is the live show that it birthed. After blowing regional crowds away at the Falls Festival, Halsey dropped into Sydney’s iconic Metro Theatre with her smokey, nebulous exuberance in tow, the first of two sold out headliners insanely anticipated and ridiculously hyped.
Before that hype was put to the test, however, a thousand-strong crowd clad in flannelettes in septum bars were swept off their feet by Oh Wonder, an anomalous surge of spine-tingling chillstep and bubbly synthpop. With a voice that could end all international conflict, frontwoman Josephine Vander Gucht was an English-accented marvel; impossible to turn away from, and inescapably swoon-inducing. The same can be said for her keyboardist accomplice Anthony West, who slicked the proceedings with a bassy groove. Flourished with live guitars and drums, the duo’s (though tonight a quartet) 30-minute set made it crystal clear why Oh Wonder are on the high rise to stardom - from the moment “Landslide” came wobbling through the speakers, Sydney was stunned, paralysed by beauty and brainwashed by harmonies.
9:15pm. It was far past the majority of the crowd’s bedtime, but the energy in the room had only just begun to erupt when Halsey swaggered onstage, doused in the glow of a warm orange strobe as she belted out the opening lines to “Gasoline”. Slinking around her platform and soaking up the vibes with a microphone in one hand and a premix in the other, Halsey was a fever you can’t sweat out, a force of incandescence with an unforgiving gallantry. Backed simply by a DJ and a drummer, all eyes were on the woman herself - despite, of course, a mesmerising production setup. Her drummer bursted to life towards the latter half of the set, smashing out solos and getting violent with his snares as Halsey melted hearts and her fans murdered eardrums.
Pillared on Badlands bangers with a cut or two from the Room 93 EP, Halsey’s setlist was nothing short of sheer perfection. She started strong with “New Americana”, “Strange Love” and “Roman Holiday” blazing through the first half of her hour, with “Ghost”, “Colors” and “Hurricane” keeping the flame alight as the night rolled on. Though sounding much unlike she does in the studio, Halsey’s stage voice is simply jaw-dropping. She sung with a dusty echo on “Drive”, a darkened grit on “Castle” and a powerful serenade on “Hurricane”. The cues pulled from Twenty One Pilots’ signature live show (of whom she is a fan/friend) were notable, but never took away from Halsey’s own unique luminosity.
Chanting the chorus to “New Americana” and screaming the ‘tumblr line’ from “Colours” as if it were their own slam poetry, Halsey’s audience tonight was dedicated as fuck. Amazed by the response from the cluttered crowd ahead of her, our heroine ended the night with a speech that will undoubtedly wind up as one of her most iconic. “It’s very easy to go to a concert and feel like you’re watching a movie,” she enthused, overwhelmed with passion and on the verge of drunken tears. “And I just want you to know that I AM NOT A FUCKING MOVIE!!! I am ALIVE, and I am LOOKING AT YOU!!!!”
Halsey might have just left the country, but if this hour and ten was any indication, it certainly won’t be long before she’s packing out arenas.
Written by Matt Doria
Photography by Anthony Smith