“Next time I come to Boston, I’ll be playing in an arena,” Halsey told the camera-phone sea of fervent fans at her sold-out Saturday show at House of Blues. And if the New Jersey pop singer’s comment seemed a bit cocky, it was also matter-of-fact on the heels of a just-announced 2016 date for New York’s Madison Square Garden, as the 21-year-old upstart marveled at her fortune – and connection with fans.
“I don’t know why you picked me, but thank you very much,” Halsey (real name Ashley Frangipane) told the throngs of tween and teen girls who proceeded on cue to carry an entire verse of her breakthrough single “Ghost” as the lights came up. That mid-set exchange offered a more extroverted boost that Halsey — who possesses an effective but not especially dynamic voice — will need if she’s going to conquer big arenas behind her quickly hot debut Badlands. The black-clad singer spent the first half of her hour-long set building a mystery, stalking the stage in dim, oblique lighting, though she clearly connected with her fans, who sang along from the first lines of opener “Gasoline,” piping back “Are you insane like me? Been in pain like me?”
That bond served her well. Halsey’s dark, ethereal electro-pop songs — backed by a keyboardist and drummer — began to blur over the set, though the lights grew brighter and she grew engaging, stripping back her shroud to strike dramatic poses on stage-edge risers. A few other songs stood out both lyrically and melodically, namely “Hold Me Down,” “Roman Holiday” and the more anthemic “New Americana,” which closed with a blast of confetti as she sang, “We are the new Americana, high on legal marijuana, raised on Biggie and Nirvana” — though it’s unlikely that many in the crowd were raised on Biggie and Nirvana or old enough to smoke weed.
But the devotion of Halsey’s fans (girls up front gained their spots by lining up outside at 7 a.m., leaving sidewalk debris in their wake) could prove to be the overnight sensation’s saving grace in projecting to larger audiences.
Across town on Saturday — and across a totally different style and demographic – another new major-label act proved more arena-ready. Vintage Trouble has built a fearsome reputation on club stages over the past few years and just opened for AC/DC in stadiums, but the So-Cal rockers turned a sold-out Brighton Music Hall into an intimate powder keg. The seasoned quartet riffed on both R&B showbands and classic rock, as guitarist Nalle Colt teased bluesy Grateful Dead and Led Zeppelin licks within Vintage Trouble’s seamless, smoking tunes.
Vintage Trouble’s Nalle Colt and Ty Taylor rock the Brighton Music Hall.
But the real star of the show was James Brown-esque frontman Ty Taylor, who spun in place like a cyclone, only to grab the mic or drop into a leg split. He crooned, he screamed, and during a locomotive “Run Like the River,” he waded across the packed floor, climbed atop the bar, got everyone to raise their hands, then crowd-surfed back to the stage. Vintage Trouble ranks as one of today’s most dynamic live rock acts — certainly one not to miss the next time the band storms into town, likely on a larger stage as well