Minutes before taking the main stage to headline the first night of the Billboard Hot 100 festival on Saturday (Aug. 18), Halsey tweeted: “It’s pouring!!! I see all your dedicated asses in your seats! So when I get onstage we are gonna go f–king HARD in the rain.” But by the time the New Jersey native belted her first note, the skies had cleared and the stars became visible for the first time all night — with Halsey shining brightest.
The alt-pop artist opened her set with her silhouette cast against a white cloth, while she delivered “Eyes Closed” off her latest Billboard 200 No. 1 album, 2017’s Hopeless Fountain Kingdom. When the cloth finally dropped as the chorus kicked in, it revealed Halsey’s white patent thigh-high boots and air-brushed corset, which read “Hopeless” in blue spray paint — her first of several looks on the night.
Accompanied by a live keyboardist and drummer, and an occasional backup dancer (who doubled as a faux flame during “Strangers,” which Halsey introduced by shouting out the LGBTQ community), she wasted no time establishing how the show would go: “Now listen, we are in New York right now, which means I am so very close to home. I didn’t come all the way here if we’re not going to have a party tonight, Billboard,” she explained.
She made sure her set — that included a total of three outfits, one of which she accessorized with a sparkled ski mask — was nothing short of that. While performing, she skillfully flipped and twirled the mic in her hand with the ease of a seasoned juggler, and elsewhere stomp-danced in a puddle of her own making onstage for “Lie” — in the vein of Beyonce and Kendrick Lamar‘s 2016 BET Awards performance of “Freedom.”
Hi Halsey pic.twitter.com/lp5377P4K2
— chris payne (@cpayneonaplane) August 19, 2018
Before bringing about the set’s more tender moments, Halsey mentioned that she had played this festival before in 2015. She noted that it’s “pretty f–king crazy” to be headlining, and claimed the highlight of her summer was finding out she had earned Day One’s top spot.
By the time the clock creeped past her 11 p.m. end time, she had sung a stripped down version of her Chainsmokers collaboration “Closer,” and sparks had showered the stage for the soulful “Alone.” But the standout moment had come earlier, during “Heaven In Hiding,” on which she repeatedly declared through pitch-perfect guttural growls: “I can put on a show.” And she sure did.