There is a certain magic in live performances, whether it be the production tools the artist utilizes to light up the stage, or the energy of being in a room full of people that love exactly what you do. Every concert-goer has that sublime emotion of experiencing your favorite songs or albums in a space dedicated just for live music.
While live albums aren’t the exact same as attending a concert, they can get you pretty close, and for someone who has been wanting to go to a Halsey concert for the last five years, “Badlands (Live From Webster Hall)” was everything I didn’t know I needed.
On Aug. 28, 2015, Halsey released her first studio album entitled “Badlands” when she was just 19-years-old. Five years later, she has crafted top-charting hits, won awards and has even given speeches at various events. You can tell that when she created “Badlands,” she had no idea this would be where she is today.
To celebrate the five-year-anniversary of “Badlands,” Halsey spent the entire week prior to Aug. 28, 2020 hinting towards something coming on her Instagram. Every day, she posted a picture from a road trip, captioning it with a “Badlands” lyric, something strange considering she had just released a new studio album in January. It was earlier this week she revealed that to celebrate the big occasion, she would be releasing her very first live album.
After “Without Me” topped charts for months in a row, Halsey took a break from touring. It was over half a year later when she cryptically revealed that, in May of 2018, she would be back to give fans a throwback to how she got here in the first place. It was a two night concert series; the first night, she played the “Badlands” album in its entirety. The second night, she played her second studio album, “Hopeless Fountain Kingdom,” in its entirety. Fans were going wild for the performances, many of the songs being ones that she had never performed live before, and it was a pleasant throwback to the intimate standing-only venues that made her famous as opposed to stadium tours.
While I wasn’t sure at first how monumental a live album could be to the listening experience, I was shocked from when the very first track “Castle” started playing. They are so drastically different from the studio recorded versions, hitting so much harder. In live performances, artists are able to play with their vocals, sing notes higher or lower or even hold them out longer than they did on their studio albums. Live performances allow artists to play with their songs and get creative with them so long after they first published them. When these performances are recorded to albums, they let fans from all over the world hear how an artist’s vocals have matured from years of touring.
In live performances, there is also more of a focus on the instruments. One of the reasons I loved “Badlands” so much was because of the electric tones tying together with the lyrics, really captivating the apocalyptic aesthetic Halsey created with her first album. Listening to the live performances, though, so many of those electric tones created on a computer are replaced with an electric guitar, a drum set and even a piano. No video recorded by an audience member could ever get across the delightful sense of how it felt to be there, but the live album gets close.
Halsey is well-known for her speeches in between songs, sitting down with the audience to tell them a personal story or give them some advice. I was so excited to see that those were also included on the live album. My personal favorite is the “Forget Her and Find Her” talking break, during which Halsey tells the story of making this album. She discussed how when she was 19 creating “Badlands,” she constantly forgot the person she was deep down as she grew, learned and changed as a person. She would forget who she was, but then find herself, only to forget herself again. Closing the speech, Halsey says that “if you lose yourself, it is never too late to find yourself again. And when you stumble upon the person you used to be, they will be so happy to see you.”
Somehow, the angry songs are angrier and the sad songs are sadder. The emotions are electric, as if you could reach out and touch them during each song, even while sitting in the comfort of your dorm. While it is just all of the same songs being played again, “Badlands (Live From Webster Hall)” somehow feels like a whole new album.
The album is out now on all music-streaming platforms.