A year ago people were lined up outside the Newport Music Hall to see The Kooks perform. Few who went to that show had ever heard of the opening act, Halsey. At that point, she had not yet dropped her EP, “Room 93,” and had only released a collection of covers on YouTube. A year later the American singer-songwriter released her debut studio album, “Badlands,” headlined a North American tour, and Tuesday night performed to a sold out crowd.
For the short time that Halsey has been on the scene, her almost cult following is impressive. Cultivating a fanbase from YouTube and Tumblr has pulled a diverse crowd and brought out fans from all over. The line to get into Newport started before 10 a.m. on Tuesday morning, with fans bearing a dreary, rainy day outside for over eight hours.
Fans filed into the Newport for over an hour and finally Halsey’s opening act, Flor— another name that hasn’t hit mainstream — appeared on stage, surprising the crowd with their tunes.
The natives of Hood River, Oregon, found a brilliant way to balance an indie-pop energy with intense, haunting melodies that made their sound distinct and all their own. Even though they had a short-lived set, they kept the crowd’s attention the entire time.
With the entire place buzzing, the crowd roared as Halsey took the stage. Without a word, the New Jersey native began her high-powered song “Gasoline.” Halsey used her dark lyrics and intense bass and synth patterns to develop an almost otherworldly aura about her.
Halsey describes “Badlands” as a concept album; using obscure and forceful imagery to take one through the “badlands” of her mind and her inner emotional struggles as an artist. She utilizes the album as a call to the new generation, or as she has coined it in her hit single, the “New Americana.” With common threads of drugs and sex, she’s able to relate to the younger crowd and it showed as not one person missed a beat to the melancholy anthems.
The night continued to crescendo as she performed a high-powered hit after another, taking a breath to perform one love song titled “Drive,” which showed a softer side that is few and far between on her record.
Along with the excitement of the show, she took the opportunity to divulge a big announcement in the middle of her set: a new collaboration with Justin Bieber. The new soon-to-be hit, “The Feeling”, will be released sometime next month and could create enough mainstream buzz to make Halsey a household name.
The entire night can be summed up in one word: rebellion. The crowd’s inability to be subdued or restrained and a performance that encourages defiance made for a show that left one wondering where this girl came from and where she is going.