fri 10/04/2020

Halsey, SSE Hydro, Glasgow review - a pop star with plenty of personality | reviews, news & interviews

Halsey, SSE Hydro, Glasgow review - a pop star with plenty of personality

Halsey, SSE Hydro, Glasgow review - a pop star with plenty of personality

The songstress is an exciting performer, but her set slowed down too much

Halsey, in reflective mood

There is something enjoyably spikey about Halsey, even when she is adhering to pop convention. At one stage she told the crowd how good they looked, before dryly adding it was praise they wouldn’t have heard before. These are brave words when playing to a Glasgow audience.

There is something enjoyably spikey about Halsey, even when she is adhering to pop convention. At one stage she told the crowd how good they looked, before dryly adding it was praise they wouldn’t have heard before. These are brave words when playing to a Glasgow audience. She is a pop performer possessing an actual personality, one that has survived the step up to playing arenas, and when she spoke during the encore of how her fans had helped keep her alive during tough times, it came with a raw emotion rarely present in big gigs.

The New Jersey native was also very much the show here. Her trio of backing musicians were pushed far to the flanks, and although there were confetti, flames and rotating platforms, a substantial amount was centred purely around Halsey herself, often illuminated by a single shade of vivid colour from the big screen. On the set-opening “Nightmare” it was blood red, fitting for a slice of angst-pop that thrillingly kicked the door in to announce her arrival.

The 25-year-old was good value for that spotlight, as both dancer and singer. She gyrated around and prowled about with consistent energy, while her vocal is an impressive chameleon that adapted well to the various styles she has purloined. This year’s Manic release featured both self-confessional lyrics and a hefty range of genres, and made up a considerable amount of the lengthy two hour set.

As a show, however, it worked best when Halsey was active, rather than merely singing. The straightforward pop of “Eyes Closed” was accompanied by all sorts of dramatic contortions and “Walls Could Talk” saw her raised high on a platform designed to look like stairs, dangling towards the front with considerable sass. Even when not manoeuvring around she showed flair, with a technical glitch smoothly handled by merrily chatting about Lewis Capaldi and singing a snippet of “Someone You Loved”, to hysterical screaming.

Yet the actual music was not as satisfying. If the singer has no qualms about trying to vary her styles up, then she hasn’t successfully mastered them either, with a similar sheen usually being added on top, often in the form of repetitive drumming or a tiresome, club friendly beat. The country flavoured “You Should Be Sad” arrived with such bombast that anything unique was soon obscured, “Heaven In Hiding” was big hand claps but little else, and “3am" was indistinct rock. At times it felt like pop in a one-size-fits-all form, minor differences but the same basic result.

It was almost a relief when “Finally/Beautiful Stranger” arrived, its acoustic nature offering a nice contrast, as did the relaxed "100 Letters", which showcased her voice at its most powerful. They were almost too effective though, for the crowd was noticeably calmer and quieter during the night’s second half than the first, and for every accomplished banger like “Graveyard” there was a less than thrilling tune like the plinky-plonk pop of “Clementine”. It seemed like the night’s atmosphere had drained away.

An encore thankfully rediscovered some fire, with “Experiment On Me” and “Gasoline” bouncing along and enlivening the night with sheer passion. If only the tunes had all matched her stagecraft.

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