Halsey brings the Hopeless Fountain Kingdom to the Queen City
Halsey brings the Hopeless Fountain Kingdom to the Queen City
by: Kerri Joy
Halsey’s Hopeless Fountain Kingdom stretched its roots in the Queen City last night, as stories of loves lost, retribution, and self empowerment filled the eyes and ears of the Spectrum Center.
Testing the waters first was the UK’s pop queen Charli XCX. Though she hasn’t released a full length since 2016, her essence in the pop world still shines through even the most seasoned of performers. Luckily for fans, she dropped a new single in July, aptly entitled “Boys,” accompanied by a music video for the ages. Lotta boys.
The HFK tour is just one giant party, as proven by PARTYNEXTDOOR and his unique brand of alt-r&b. The Canadian rapper is more than just a performer, dipping his creative pen into collabs with Rhianna, Drake, Big Sean, Jeremih, and even Halsey. Touring is a lot more fun when you get to bring your friends along. Look out for a joint EP with Jeremih this year, but for now, we get to enjoy our Soundcloud favorites on the HFK stage.
Pre-show jitters plagued the audience as the stage crew constructed Halsey’s stage. A large white curtain, that was soon encompassed by blood red lights, barricaded all sides of the stage, making her stage look more like a barrier between her and the audience. This barricade stood tall and hid the alt-pop singer from the packed crowd as the band members took their respective spots on each side of the curtain. It truly was Halsey’s show, already.
Hopeless Fountain Kingdom’s prologue, which is directly borrowed from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet prologue, kickstarted the album with a deep hum that sunk into the depths of the crowd. Though the opening monologue was skipped in the live show, the auto-tuned, distorted vocals of Halsey’s first track played through her blood red curtain, remaining hidden behind the barricade. As the track ends, a snippet of Kanye West’s “Hold My Liquor” starts an aggressive chant in the audience, building up anticipation further than what we thought was possible. Soon enough, the tension broke and the opening notes of “Eyes Closed” breathed life back into the audience, only to hold us hostage again when Halsey’s silhouette appeared on the curtain, immediately showing her larger than life persona as it should be.
The billowing curtain dropped and the arena shook with ear-piercing screams that Halsey just couldn’t ignore. Her mic couldn’t hide the goofy grin that stretched across her face as she broke into the chorus. Halsey’s stage setup is pure art, as cheesy as it sounds, because of its entire approach. Extra large stairs that lead to two extra large screens are synced up through the entire show, painting pictures of roses, butterflies, honey bees, water, and everything Hopeless Fountain Kingdom represents. Arena art at its finest.
“Eyes Closed” finished up as “Hold Me Down” came around, beckoning for one glitter-clad, masked dancer to creep up and down the steps with the Jersey singer, teasing each other with threats and soft touches all the while. These two would circle one another throughout the entire set, eventually ending with a battle that leaves Halsey victorious. None of this would happen until she ripped through songs from both full-lengths, Badlands and Hopeless Fountain Kingdom, as well as a track from her first EP. Songs like “Castle,” Heaven in Hiding,” and “Walls Could Talk” had the audience bouncing on command, though it was hard to not be dazzled by the art of the graphics behind the dancing duo.
Halsey took important time to ensure the crowd that her show was a safe space for LGBTQA individuals, as well as supports, leading into “Strangers,” a song that was accompanied by couples of different sexualites, genders, and races making out. HARD. Why not, though, right?
My favorite part of the night was the quietest part, though it may be because I’m a sucker for piano ballads. Halsey stepped off stage as her keyboardist took a seat behind a white grand piano, center stage, and encompassed in soft blue light. With hints of familiar melodies, the pianist played a medley of several songs until Halsey returned to the stage. Though she left the stage frequently, her absence left the audience to solely focus on the art. The art of the piano, the art of the screens, or the art of what was happening around us.
This particular instance gave the audience and Halsey alike a breather, as she sat down center stage and sang an acoustic version of her Chainsmokers collab, “Closer.” Don’t ask me why I got misty-eyed during this damn song but God damn, it was special. Halsey just does that to you. The pair transitioned into a softer, heartbreak-in-itself-song, showing Charlotte that arena tours aren’t just for the rich, famous, and vapid. Arena tours can be for art too.
The apologetic “Sorry” left the Spectrum Center hushed, until Halsey jumped up and demanded we get the hell over it, in her loving way of course.
Clad in a red one-piece and thigh high red boots, Halsey growled through “Angel on Fire,” only to don a white jersey and head to her B-Stage for battle. A dance war on water soaked the audience surrounding B-Stage, though TeeTee and Halsey weren’t concerned about their surroundings as they fought through “Lie” and “Don’t Play.” The end of “Don’t Play” found Halsey starting a chant, commanding a badass call and response.
As Halsey screamed “Women,” the audience rhythmically chanted back “don’t play no games.” The chant got Halsey back to the main stage while TeeTee commanded the back end of the venue.
Part of the HFK tour experience was the chance to be part of one of two houses (remember the Romeo and Juliet prologue?). On the left side of the stage was the house of Angelus, clad in a heavenly light blue, while the right side of the stage held the house of Aureum, drenched in blood red light, both holding VIP participants. These particular audience members got to vote on a song that Halsey would perform after her time on the B-Stage, making each show unique to the city its in. Tonight, Charlotte would watch Halsey perform “100 Letters,” the track to follow the prologue on Hopeless Fountain Kingdom and one that fans have been begging her to find a consistent spot on the setlist.
Giving fans control of the setlist isn’t the only homage she paid to her day ones. Shortly after “100 Letters,” a song that had her demanding promises from the audience that they don’t belong to anyone else but themselves, Halsey perched herself on the stoop of her stage and sang her oldest song on the setlist, “Is There Somewhere,” from her “Room 93” EP. Being that that was the first song I heard from the singer years ago, it was such a special moment to see her perform it live. Though some would argue that what I felt was nothing compared to the way the audience felt as she walked through the separated crowd, jumping into the fans and taking pictures, giving group hugs, and smacking kisses on the cheeks of anyone who was down. She walked up and down the aisle, giving attention to both sides, being too occupied to sing her song.
Eventually she found her way back to the stage, giving her a few minutes to check in on the crowd in her soft voice that left the entire venue silent. One of the most amazing things about the Jersey artist is her ability to silence a room with just a word; she doesn’t demand their attention, she is offered it on a silver platter, scattered with roses and diamonds. The audience hung onto every word she spoke, regardless of its content, which included the introduction of one of her most popular songs, “Colors.” Never have I felt more like a teenager than when the bridge of “Colors” pulled me back into my Tumblr days; but I can’t say I was mad about it.
The end of the set was no doubt the highlight of the night, and maybe of the year (for me, at least!). Everyone knows ive music gets me all sappy, and seeing people connect with the music and artist makes me emo every. Damn. Time. So can you imagine how messy I got when Halsey walked off stage as the final track on Hopeless Fountain Kingdom played, aptly named “Hopeless,” and three minutes of black and white footage were displayed on the screens, showing Halsey playing small venues to festivals, and showing her hugging hundreds upon hundreds of fans throughout her career. I was in a puddle of tears, as was the rest of the venue, because Halsey’s shows have never not been about the fans.
Closing with two fucking killer songs, Halsey left the venue in shambles. Skipping back out on stage to “Gasoline,” a power house ‘fuck you’ to those who try to control you, and leading the audience into a “Do you call yourself a fucking hurricane like me,” chant. The line is from “Gasoline,” though references another song from the same album, named “Hurricane.” Halsey finished “Gasoline,” fires shooting up behind her, but lead us back in softly with the chant once again. It wasn’t soft for long as she started screaming the chant with us, getting everyone’s heart rate up one last time. “Hurricane” blew up the speakers, taking over the stage with dark clouds, bright lightning, and devilish flashes of light. And just like that, she disappeared into the clouds.
The HFK tour is absolutely not a show to miss. It’s so easy to say that about any show, but you’ve got to believe me when I say that art is not dead. And neither is the Hopeless Fountain Kingdom.