Halsey and BØRNS - Birmingham - Review

22nd April 2016

Halsey with supporting-act BØRNS in the O2 Academy Birmingham

Yes, I am that crazy person who takes a three-hour-train-ride solely to go to a concert – but in my defence: It was so worth it!

Halsey, an anagram of the artist’s real first-name Ashley (Frangipane) is doing a little tour across Europe at the moment – “little” being an understatement here – because, honestly, the queue in front of the venue seemed to be never-ending. Her fan base is constantly growing, she has certainly got herself a lot of attention outside of America, and rightfully so. Her debut-album “Badlands” and the tracks from her beautiful EP “Room 93” have been featured on BBC Radio 1, and she gained huge support from Zane Lowe and other Biggies of the business. But before I delve deeper into her show, let me talk about the most wonderful supporting act I could have asked for: BØRNS.

I cannot put into words how excited I was, once he was announced as the opening act. His album “Dopamine”, released last October, was definitely one of my favourites of 2015 – and if you haven’t heard of this 24-year-old American yet, shame on you! The guy’s awesome. His lyrics are perfectly balanced and the musical arrangement is a real treat: Indie-synth-pop at its finest, a highly polished gem of music! He started the show with the impeccable “Dopamine”, followed by “10.000 Emerald Pools”. His lyrical talent for describing feelings such as love and desire are detectable in all of his songs. He certainly loves to use symbols, metaphors and certain themes, but it’s also the way he expresses those words that just gets to you: “It's making my heart beat so fast, in my mind, you're the angel on the painted glass. Looking for high, divine, connection, I'm a lover, in need of confession. Let me satisfy your soul, not a saint but do I have to be? Well baby, you're my holy ghost - and I need you close, come back to me.” Isn’t that brilliant and also a little bit hot?
It helps that he looks like the fairy-version of Jim Morrison, walking around on stage, passionately singing words like: “I was there when you fell from the clouds and landed in the desert. There was a thunder inside of my heart, there was a wonderful pleasure. And like a stallion raised in the rain, you rode on the back of my bike. I knew from the song that you sang, that you were my lover for life” into the microphone. When he closed his set with the brilliant “Electric Love”, I was mesmerized and already in a state of bliss – but Halsey turned out to have a lot in store for her audience.

The concert as a whole – to put it in simpler terms – was an ingeniously thought-through peace of art, beginning with the lightning show, along with the coordinated artistic display in the background, and ending with the artist herself. Halsey conquered the stage in a white fur-coat, her movements powerful and her attitude – even though she might hate that description – as a real popstar. She constantly creates something mythical around her persona, something eccentric that keeps you interested, keeps you on your toes and keeps you wanting to listen to the stories she has to tell you. The whole experience was almost as if she took you on a journey through her mind and soul. She started the concert with the track “Gasoline” – and the crowd was already on fire. My first highlight was definitely the performance of “Strange Love”, the way everybody was screaming along when she sang: “They think I'm insane, they think my lover is strange, but I don’t have to f- tell them anything…”, was somehow simply liberating. The song “Ghost” was a big hit with the audience, and it really is a stunning piece of music, as were “Hurricane” or the well-known “New Americana,” performed more than perfectly. Still, my climax of the evening was – without a doubt – the song “Is There Somewhere?”. It was the first of her tracks I ever listened to, and it tells the beautiful but heart-breaking story of unrequited love. It is an ode to that someone, the one who is not good for you, who’s not here to stay. You know that you’re better off not getting too attached to that person, yet you can’t help but to be in love with them because they not only touched your body, but more importantly, and almost effortlessly, your soul. And Halsey puts these exact feelings so faultlessly into phrasing when she sings “I promised myself I wouldn't let you complete me” and begs and hopes: “I'm sorry but I fell in love tonight. I didn't mean to fall in love tonight. You're looking like you fell in love tonight. Could we pretend that we're in love?”

All of her lyrics are rather radical, honest but also very relatable. Yet, they are so enunciated that you can’t help but realise that she sometimes seems to feel too much – her mental condition therefore being something she openly addresses in her songs. She leads you through her experiences of pain, of struggles, she shows cracks, but also the beauty of ripped edges and she ultimately guides you towards a healing in the form of melodies and words: Taking in her performance, her music and the lyrics, resembles some sort of a musical catharsis.

The final thing, left for me to say is simply: The night was spellbinding – and I am still very happy that I took this train!

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