Halsey isn’t holding back.
It’s what their fans might love about them, a big reason Halsey headlined the biggest stage at Summerfest, America’s biggest music festival, in Milwaukee on Saturday.
But transparent as they always have been, what Halsey told the American Family Insurance Amphitheater was particularly striking and poignant.
“I had a life-saving abortion,” Halsey said, “and I wouldn’t play for you.”
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On Friday, Halsey wrote an op-ed for Vogue revealing that before their first child, Ender, was born last year, they had three miscarriages and had to have an abortion because “my body couldn’t completely terminate the pregnancy on my own and I would risk contracting sepsis without medical prevention.
“My abortion saved my life and gave my son his own,” Halsey wrote.
The editorial and this revelation at Summerfest came eight days after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which made Halsey’s performance of their visceral “Nightmare” at Summerfest even more explosive.
“I’m tired and angry, but someone should be,” Halsey and thousands of mostly female fans sang together, feeling that exhaustion and fury together, as footage of protests against Roe played on the big screen of the stage and that flames ignited. out of all directions.
“Abortion is health care and a human right,” the screen flashed, all capitals, before the song reached its climax.
“Roe’s reversal is a catastrophic attack on bodily autonomy (and) will only encourage more dangerous legislation, affecting vulnerable communities the most,” the screen reads. “Don’t wait for revolutionaries to change the world. The job is ours and we must do it now.
And from there, Halsey gave a call and response of “My body, my choice,” their voice and the voice of their fans growing louder, angrier, more determined with each repetition.
Halsey a force of nature on stage
It wasn’t the only way Halsey was completely open and unwavering.
This tour – which comes two years after an ultimately canceled run behind “Manic” which was due to stop at Summerfest in 2020 – is in support of another new album, “If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power from last year, made in collaboration with producers Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, and sharing the seething fury of Nine Inch Nails in its DNA.
“And they said boys would be boys, but they were wrong,” Halsey sang on Saturday atop scaffolding hovering above the stage, for the ominous album and show opener “The Tradition “.
About halfway through the show, for “I Want Power” star “The Lighthouse,” Halsey symbolically came out to get revenge on the patriarchy, portrayed as a sea monster in a bathtub on the big stage screen.
“Well, that should teach a man to play with me,” Halsey sang eerily. “I’m glad I met the Devil because he showed me I was weak.”
By the end of the show, Halsey was practically a force of nature, closing the two-hour set with “Power’s” most powerful track, “I Am Not a Woman, I’m a God.” On the screen behind Halsey and their three-piece band, there were images of Halsey in a plastic bathing suit, silently screaming, covered in blood – the fury on their faces turning to freezing resolve.
“I am not a martyr,” they sang defiantly during the chorus. “I am a problem.”
As defiant as Halsey was on Saturday, they were also touchingly vulnerable – especially during some pre-recorded poems they wrote between chapters of the show, one of which played over footage of Halsey curled up curled up naked in a tub, responding to their fears of motherhood.
“I toss and turn at night and hope it’s not an inherited condition,” Halsey said, referring to their bipolar disorder and fearing their son also has mental health issues.
“Why do I feel helpless when there’s tons of help around me,” Halsey asked. “And how can I feel lost when I’m never left unresolved.”
Escape into Kate Bush’s song
As integral as the intense revelations to the power of Halsey’s performance were, there were also entertaining and escapist moments on Saturday night.
During their performance of the Marshmallo collaboration “Be Kind”, Halsey made a remarkable Picasso-like drawing while they sang, which would be auctioned off to raise money for charity.
And after that gory performance of “Nightmare,” Halsey tapped into the zeitgeist in a completely different way – with a gripping cover of Kate Bush’s 1985 classic “Running Up The Hill,” which found newfound popularity. on the final season’s soundtrack. from “Stranger Things”.
Halsey also referenced the song they wrote that mentions Milwaukee, “929,” though they never sang it. And they told how, ahead of Saturday’s Summerfest show, they looked at pictures from their last Summerfest performance, where they wore a sparkly leotard, in 2018 – admitting they didn’t even recognize this person anymore.
They are right. Halsey changed dramatically in those four years, becoming more outspoken, bolder, more artistically assured.
And they, and us, are better off for it.
The Marias, Abby Roberts open the show
When Halsey’s ultimately doomed tour was announced in 2020, Chvrches and Omar Apollo were the opening acts. They eventually dropped out, and their Saturday replacements, the Marias and Abby Roberts (making their US festival debuts), were undeniably downgraded.
Both bands specialize in laid-back dream pop, but laid-back, no-frills performances quickly got boring. Despite the slow approach, the crowd cheered a bit for Marias’ cover of Britney Spears’ “…Baby One More Time” and praised the band for stopping the show mid-song without hesitation. when a fan in the pit needed it. medical attention.
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3. “Easier than lying”
4. “You should be sad”
5. “1121”/”Die for Me”
10. “The Lighthouse”
11. “Killing Boys”
12. “The girl is a gun”
13. “Be Kind”
14. “100 letters”
17. “So Good”
18. “Bad at Love”
22. “Running Up That Hill” (Kate Bush
23. “Without Me”
24. “I am not a woman, I am a God”