Live Review: Halsey + BØRNS – Palais Theatre, Melbourne (06.01.16)

Hitting Melbourne’s Palais Theatre for her first Australian headline show, Halsey, with LA singer/songwriter BØRNS in tow, put on a show of great control, yet brimming with untapped potential. However, the easily 95% female crowd didn’t seem to mind, spending the entire hour-long performance screaming and singing along to every word, a testament to the meteoric rise of the 21 year old American.

Opening the night, BØRNS strolled out to by far one of the loudest cheers I’ve heard for an opening artist, and one that was justified by a brilliant performance. Although arguably tentative throughout the first couple songs, the performer (born Garrett Borns) and his backing band clearly fed off the crowd’s response. For the first show of the tour, mixing for the group was surprisingly spot on, with the fantastic tone of the guitarist’s gold Fender cutting through the soundscape like a hot knife through butter. Support artists exist primarily to get a crowd warmed up for the main act, but also to get the word out about themselves, and BØRNS nailed their role for the night on both accounts. Given the ever-online and consistently blogging nature of Halsey’s fan base, I wouldn’t be surprised if BØRNS and his band take off in popularity, and it certainly wouldn’t be a bad thing.

The massive crowd that had assembled for the 7:30pm door opening (despite all having allocated tickets) was one of many indicators of the reputation that Halsey has built up over a remarkably short period, and one that was prefaced by the rapid rate at which tickets sold out. From the outside, Melbourne’s picturesque beachside Palais Theatre looks to be the perfect location for an international artist to play a sold out show, however the venue’s bolted down seats proved to be one of at least a few restraints on the headliner’s performance.

To be straight to the point, Halsey’s performance was not a bad one by any stretch of the imagination, however it was most certainly a very safe one. The New Jersey native was very obviously held back not only by the innately static nature of the crowd, but also perhaps by the fact that the show was all-ages. Although it is commendable that raunchy clothing and ‘slut drops’ (it’s okay, you can Google it safely) were avoided given the underage nature of much of the crowd, they were features that I was, to an extent, expecting of an artists whose songs feature numerous references to sex and drugs.

The likely unfamiliar nature of the crowd quite possibly threw Halsey off, and this can be forgiven, however it would be dishonest to say that her vocal performance wasn’t lacking. Skill and control are not what was missing, however, but rather a willingness to consistently go above and beyond what is heard on the album, or at the very least stray slightly from the recorded material. While the vast majority of the fanatic audience loved every minute of the performance, it speaks volumes that there were huge cheers for even the slightest deviations from the vocal lines that can be found on the debut album BADLANDS. “Colors”, a terrific song in its own right, was the standout for the night because it’s the only one that felt especially different from its recorded counterpart, thanks to some well-timed falsettos during the choruses. Although I would argue that the second song of the night, “New Americana”, is a more well written piece, it’s live version was simply no different to listening to it on any one of the seemingly countless white iPhones being held up to record it, a letdown given Halsey’s undeniable talent.

A mini-monologue towards the end of the night revealed that Halsey didn’t want her shows to be too ‘fancy’, and there is by no means anything wrong with that. However, the importance of each element of a live show increases the fewer parts there are, and when the two-man backing band are left for the most part literally in the dark, only the performer and the visuals remain, the latter of which were admittedly spectacular (although at times lagging as if they were being streamed from YouTube). A huge reputation combined with a lack of ‘wow’ factor left me somewhat disappointed with Halsey’s performance, which if anything only makes me more excited for what’s to come in the future. BADLANDS is proof of her existing talents as a singer and songwriter, and I can only see her ability as a live performer growing with experience over time. Halsey hasn’t peaked just yet, but it’ll be spectacular when she does.


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