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ATP! Live Review: Halsey - Underground Arts Philadelphia, PA (03/31/2015)

Besides the scintillating blue smoke, there is little movement on the Underground Arts’ stage in Philadelphia. The crowd takes the bait, holding a collective breath, leaning forward, their eyes trained on the stage, hoping the sapphire wisps will transform into something more concrete.

Then Halsey hits the stage, her bright hair blending with the colored smoke so she seems to simply dissolve from the fog. The crowd erupts, launching into the first song with the young pop artist. Born in New Jersey and adopted by New York City, Halsey has a lingering grittiness that translates beautifully to her performance. It is impossible to watch Halsey and not feel something; she moves so fluidly from one emotion to another, savoring every moment she has on stage.

And her fans hang on every second, too. The Underground Arts is not a particularly easy venue to work with due to multiple – and large – support columns scattered throughout the crowd’s view, but Halsey did her best to connect with the crowd.

Mega-hit songs like “Ghost” and “Empty Gold” were predictably popular, but even the slower – and achingly painful – “Trouble” drew a loud and positive reaction. Halsey’s performance was solid and well done, though it will certainly be interesting to see what she is capable of in a larger venue with more room to perform and create.

Halsey played yet-to-be-released songs for the crowd as well, like “New Americana” and “Control.” The latter was, in particular, a strong point. With a haunting, violent presence, Halsey’s vocal work on the chorus hook, “goddamn right, you should be scared of me” is nothing short of chilling.

Another highlight was Halsey encouraging her fans to “put the iPhones down and appreciate the moment.” Halsey’s point was met with cheers – there is something to be said about closing your eyes and losing yourself entirely in the music.

That’s the thing with Halsey. She is lost in the music for the duration of the song, each verse almost taking on its own individual life. There is no choice but to feel what she’s feeling, because her emotions are so raw and visceral.

“This song is about not belonging to anybody but yourself,” Halsey told the crowd, her words firm, before launching into “Hurricane.”

And when she sings, “don’t belong to no city, don’t belong to no man,” everyone in the room believes it, because there is such an honesty to Halsey’s work. Even at a young age, she is baring the tenderness in her ribcage to anyone who will listen, and it’s a little unsettling, but mostly beautiful, a rare intersection of pop vocals and a glittering darkness not commonly found or easily crafted. This is just the beginning of the storm.

Words by Tori Mier // Photos by Danielle Parsons

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