I managed to get my hands on a ticket to see Halsey at the Electric Ballroom in Camden on the 10th. I’ve seen her once before (Brixton O2 Academy) and had a great time. Halsey really is a great performer, however, I was a little worried about how this performance would go as the video at Wembley, a few days prior, looked pretty wank. She had clearly put in so much effort on that performance but got nothing back from the audience.
I’ve always found smaller gigs to be more exciting and lively because we all feel so lucky to be there seeing our favourite artists, and I think a lot of performers feel the same way, like they are going back to their routes.
This was my first time as a disabled person going to a gig under an accessibility ticket so I got a pretty sick view from the elevated fire door and a handy stool to sit on (more on this experience specifically in another post).
I got to film the opening to the show, Castle. One of her first album songs that brought a lot of nostalgia for my first year of university. Immediately, the whole crowd screamed and sang along. When Halsey asked us to jump, we did. (Okay, I didn’t but emotionally I did.) The bass in her music was so intense I felt like I was at an underground rave, the laser lights in her show helped.
At the half hour mark, Halsey stops between songs, “I wanna talk to you about something for a sec, is that okay?” Everyone cheers hesitantly. Halsey is wearing a t-shirt with a picture of Melania and Chris, the lesbian couple who were assaulted on a bus in London at the end of May. It happened in the town we were all gathered in to see Halsey. Halsey is an openly bisexual woman and a lot of her fans are LGBT+. She asked us if we knew who these women were and talked about the viral new story that had haunted the internet since it happened.
“But the sad reality is, after the pride parades are over, and after the bars close their pride nights, when the glitter is being swept out of the streets, a lot of people get on those trains and get on those busses, and they try to wash the rainbows off their bodies and peeling the stickers off their clothes. And when Pride is over, it’s not safe to be gay anymore, because they’re worried that someone is going to viciously assault them or viciously attack them. So when people around the world ask the question, ‘why isn’t there a straight pride parade?’ The answer is because, if there was one, you wouldn’t have to get on the bus and be terrified of being beaten or killed afterwards.” Everybody cheers. “That’s why there’s not a straight pride parade. Because every fucking day on public transport is a straight pride parade. So we need to take moments like this when we are all together-” Someone throws her a gay pride flag, her face changed from anger to happiness as she holds it up in front of her. “We need to take moments like this, when we are all together, to remember how lucky we are to have a safe space right now…” She drapes the flag over one of the speakers at the side of the stage. I could see all the people filming this in the audience, I was a little too busy trying not to cry. For me, this felt like a moment to be present in.
“If you are in this crowd and you are queer, you need to make a promise to me, I need you to make a promise to me right now, you need to promise me that you will not be afraid, say it, I will not be afraid!’ The crowd echo back.
Halsey shouts again, “I will not be afraid, I will not be afraid, I will not be afraid.”
The atmosphere in the room turned from your typical London gig to a room full of revolution. I couldn’t hold my tears back anymore, and as I chanted with everyone else, I looked out across the crowd. A thousand odd people chanting that they won’t be afraid in the face of homophobia, we vibrated with this rebellious energy.
Now I understood why a gay bar from home in Brighton is called Revolution.
I had been one of the queer people who removed their glitter and rainbows after LGBT+ events for fear of being a target. Being disabled as well, I felt even more vulnerable, that I wouldn’t be able to get away. But right here in this moment watching one of my icons on stage shouting ‘I will not be afraid’, I felt powerful.
Halsey then went into Strangers, her song about being in a toxic relationship with a woman. Her stage lights flashed rainbow. I sniffled and wiped my tears away as I sang along.
Halsey stopped the show at one point, to make sure a fan who had passed out got out of the pit safely before continuing. She made a point of telling us that if we feel weird or need to go, that we should because that is what’s most important. It was really endearing to see her so concerned for her fans. I’ve been to my fair share of gigs as a teenager, and I don’t remember many, if any, of the bands stopping like this and checking in with us to make sure we were okay.
When Bad At Love started playing, my bisexual heart filled with joy. This song in particular meant a lot to me, as I had always gone through turbulent relationships and also thought of myself as ‘bad at love, but you can’t blame me for trying’.
Halsey took a moment to talk about her emotional growth over the years and how one of her songs was about desperately wanting to love people but feeling unable to form a genuine human connection (at which point, I loudly declared, “SAME!”) and in the spur of the moment, she added Sorry to the set list. One of her few slower songs, she asked the crowd to turn their phone torches on and wave along to the music. She did this at the gig I went to in 2016, and turning around in the pit to see everyone’s lights was incredible, and it only got better from a slightly heightened point of view. As the instruments fell away, it was only us and her singing the final chorus in floods of white light.
She looks at us, a little bashfully, and asks if she can perform Nightmare again. She performed it near the beginning of the show, and the response was great. I love this song and was actually low-key glad she asked! No one in the crowd is gonna turn her down, so we got to hear Nightmare again. One of the reasons I loved that song was it (and the music video) reminded me of some good ol’ punk rock from the 70’s like the Runaways or The Sex Pistols, but with a bit of an early 2000’s emo sound. And seeing her jumping on that tiny stage, and the crowd moshing along with her, really brought that feeling to life.
THEN SHE FUCKING BRINGS OUT YUNGBLUD and performs 11 Minutes. I had my suspicions he might come on and I’m so pleased he did. To see them both perform together was incredible, they really had fun with it and were kinda disgustingly adorable. At the end of the song, Dom declared a lot of mushy shit explaining how much we mean to Halsey and how amazing the connection she has with her fans.
Halsey kicked him back off stage to perform Without Me, another song that hits me right in the feels machine and reminds me that I am way more important than my ex’s have made me feel.
Through this gig, I was reminded of why I fell in love with her music so hard. Having an emotionally unstable mental illness that manifests in having all these big, confusing and gross feelings I couldn’t put words to, until I heard her music. With each song, I understood more and more of myself and I had been lead to believe I wouldn’t love any music as much as the emo shit I’d listened to in my teenage years, thankfully that was wrong. As I sang these songs at the top of my crackly voice, I’d remembered each significant moment they marked in my life over the last four years and some of them really were the worst moments, but Halsey gave me power to pick myself up and carry on. I am sure I am not alone in feeling like this.