“I just have one question for you Cleveland,” pop singer Halsey asked the sold out crowd at Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica last night. “Are you ready?” Judging by the deafening screams in the affirmative, we suspect Halsey got the answer she wanted.
Performing with a certain amount of swagger, the pint-sized singer certainly didn’t disappoint. She regularly engaged the audience while her three-piece band added texture to pre-recorded beats. The 70-minute set had a real intensity to it that suggests the singer is ready to move up to even bigger venues.
Possessing some serious East Coast attitude, the New Jersey-born singer sauntered across the stage like a boxer. You half expected her to start shadowboxing as she walked the length of the stage and climbed up the scaffolding that led to a second tier. She appeared at the top of the scaffolding for the opening number, “Gasoline,” breaking into dance moves that seemed inspired by Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation tour. Heavy percussion and rattling bass distinguished “Hold Me Down” and “Castle,” the latter of which benefited from its dubstep-inspired beats.
Halsey changed into a hooded red top for “Haunting,” evoking Little Red Riding Hood, albeit with a bikini-like bottom and thigh-high boots. She delivered “The Feeling,” a duet with Justin Bieber, with Bieber’s vocals on a backing track and Bieber appearing in pixelated form on the large video screens that flanked the stage.
Plodding percussion and distorted guitars gave “Control” an eerie feel, and Halsey capably sang the intro to “Ghost” without any backing from her band. While her vocals got lost in the mix for the anthem “New Americana,” she recovered for the set closer “Young God” and then capped the show off with the riveting “Colors,” which she delivered as the encore.
Halsey, who said it was her first headlining show in Cleveland, has clearly embraced the upsurge in popularity that followed in the wake of last year’s Badlands
. She connected well with fans, confessing that her favorite part of each show is the moment when she stands in the pit and can clasp hands with fans pressed up against the stage. She also gave an inspiring mid-show speech about embracing diversity.
The Londo-based indie pop duo Oh Wonder opened with a 30-minute set of mid-tempo pop tunes characterized by soft harmony vocals and an understated rhythm section. Josephine Vander Gucht and Anthony West sang most songs together, giving them a wispy, delicate feeling, but the band ultimately came off best when it upped the tempo on songs such as the cascading “Without You.”