One of the main reasons why I chose to come to Manchester to attend university was because of Manchester’s comprehensive and up-to-date music scene, so naturally, one of the first things that I did when I came here was to search for nearby concerts and gigs. And one of them was Halsey at Manchester Academy on the 22nd of February.
Unfortunately, I forgot about the day tickets went on sale and they sold out really quickly in a matter of minutes. A few weeks later though, I found someone selling a ticket for the show on Twickets and I’d never pressed the “Buy” button as quickly before, leaving any second thinking or doubts for later (there were none).
This was my first gig in the UK so I was predictably pretty anxious the few days leading up to Monday night: what kind of clothes should I wear? If I wear winter clothes it’s going to be really hot inside but if I wear otherwise it’s going to be really cold when I queue up outside. And what do I do with my coat? Do I hold it? (I later on found out about the existence of cloakrooms) What time should I queue? It was my first time going to a show alone so how are things gonna go? Can I cope with the crowd alone? Do I walk back to my halls or take the bus after the show? It was like a press conference in my head and none of which I knew the answers to.
The question about queuing was answered for me preemptively by my very own criminal law lecturer because I had lectures on Monday till 5PM anyway so that was the earliest I could queue. When classes ended though, the line was already stretching all the way from Manchester Academy to AGLC so what the heck, I might as well eat something first if the line’s already this long so I had Subway with Ee Min, Yee Lin and Kah Yee before walking allllllll the way to the end of the line (which had already reached the entrance of the main library holy heck), heaving sighs simultaneously. Ee Min accompanied me until the line started to move into the Academy, so that made the cold 5°C wait outside a lot more bearable.
My fingers and toes were already partially frozen by the time I finally entered the Academy – and into this room with a stage placed right in front in the centre. I wouldn’t say the venue was huge because it wasn’t, just slightly bigger than my uni lecture theatre but despite that, after I joined the crowd, the people pushing and jostling against me as well as the collective excited chatters surrounding me didn’t make me feel like I was in a mere crowd of 2,500 but rather five times that number.
The first two hours of the show from 7.30 to 9.30 were opening acts by Flor and BØRNS, who were pretty good but by 9PM, the crowd was starting to get restless and began chanting Halsey’s name several times. At 9.30 on the dot, the stage lights went dark and everybody screamed. I couldn’t help it – I joined in the shrieking too. The background screens started flashing rapidly, followed by the entrance of the band members. The string-plucking intro sequence of Gasoline began to play and the ever beautiful Halsey emerged from the spotlight to grace us with her rich, heavenly voice.
Because I queued at 6, I was actually quite far back when I got into the Academy but during the opening acts, there were people who didn’t stop pushing against me from the back the entire time so I got really, really annoyed at that because I was already starting to feel light-headed and anxious from the extreme proximity from all directions and I didn’t need to be pinned between two bodies when I was struggling to inhale some fresh air. They were three girls who were really, really good at squeezing to the front and in the end I decided if I couldn’t beat them, I might as well join them so I followed behind them until I was a good meter from the barrier right in the middle. Possibly the most ideal position at a gig – only if I was a few inches taller. And thus, because of my cursed height (or lack thereof), me standing in a relatively good spot didn’t make much of a difference when there was literally a wall of three tall people directly in front of me that I had to stand on tiptoe and strain my neck upwards the entire time to catch sporadic glimpses of Halsey on stage.
- Hold Me Down
- Roman Holiday
- Is There Somewhere
- New Americana
- Colors pt. II
When the stage lights went dim again, I was furiously hoping the last encore would be Young God because it was one of my favourites from Badlands and you know what, Halsey did not disappoint at all.
(These photos are actually from Colors but they are so beautiful and make for a good ending to this post.)
And then came the dread of Halsey leaving the stage, the venue lights coming back on and the crowd dispersing. I could finally breathe again but I also definitely wished it was possible for there to be multiple encores per show. Still, I untied my jacket from my waist to put it on and step out into the (for once) inviting cold wintry air of the night, all the while marvelling at how beautiful Halsey was in person, how amazing she sounded live and how much of a great time I had at my first ever gig in the UK.
Some of my favourite songs that I managed to record (among the playlist here):
Michelle’s People I’ve Watched Live List, updated: