- Live Review
- 08 Jun 22
Billie Eilish delivered a moving, beautiful performance at the 3Arena Saturday night, supported by Jessie Reyez.
There are some artists who have risen to the level of almost transcendental fame — skyrocketing to unimaginable success, their names becoming synonymous with the modern music industry. Billie Eilish, the 20-year-old LA native who built her brand on dark, wandering pop, is one of these celebrities; someone you expect to see everywhere except in-person. That's why, on Saturday night at the 3Arena, there was an air of bated breath as countless fans packed in to catch a glimpse of the myth.
Normally, arriving to a show right at doors sees a few disparate superfans packed in close to the barrier, a couple of new concert-goers who don't know about openers, fans of the support act or some people who thought, 'hey, might as well get what I paid for.' That's why, arriving right at 7:30pm, the scene that greeted us at the arena was unexpected — the pit was completely full. Right from the tall stage walls to the gaping mouth of the arena entrance, Billie Eilish fans were elbowing each other for the chance of a closer look.
This phenomenon speaks to the her near mythic status — and she has the record to back it up. Releasing her first single, 'Ocean Eyes' in 2015 (at 14 years old), she was put on the map, its soaring harmonies and gentle instrumentation proving Eilish as a talented musician with a built in master producer; her brother, Finneas O'Connell. Now, with a top 15 EP, two chart topping albums, seven Grammys, three Brits, a Golden Globe and an Oscar to her name, she is touring the world in support of Happier Than Ever, the aesthetic-shattering 2021 album that told the world; 'I'm not a kid anymore.'
So, support act Jessie Reyez had a singular experience as an opener: a full crowd. Where some may have been daunted by hundreds of people who don't know their name, Reyez took it in stride; kicking off her set by asking "how many of you don't have any idea who the fuck I am?" She laughed at the hands that shot up. If there's one thing to say about her set; everyone in that crowd knew exactly who she was by the time she stepped offstage.
Full of infectious, unbridled energy, Reyez delivered an impeccable performance. From the bluesy, acoustic ballad 'Figures' to the sweetly crescendoing tribute to her parents 'Great One,' the Canadian singer showcased her unique flavour of pop, pairing it with jokes and anecdotes that painted her as more than just a singer songwriter; she was a performer through and through.
It's rare to see a support act win over an audience like Reyez managed to do, gently commanding attention by engaging and being unashamedly honest. Like before her performance of 'Gatekeeper,' for example, she sat on the edge of the stage and looked out over the sea of upturned faces. "We're gonna get deep," she prefaced, before sharing the story of her early career — when she chased a music opportunity only for a big-shot producer to tell her that she would have to perform oral in order to get famous.
What followed was a rapturous performance, Reyez practically spitting each word, a righteous anger bleeding into the track, as if saying "see, look at me now!"
After Jessie Reyez exited the stage and the house lights came up, an anxiously excited buzz began to fill the space. A wide range of people were in attendance — from teenagers decked out in merch, older fans loitering among the upper seats to kids, some looking as young as eight years old, Billie Eilish's face looking out from their bright green t-shirts.
Then, it was time. The stage lit up in bright, pure white, disjointed noises and blinding flashes of light announcing Eilish's arrival. Suddenly, she was onstage and the audience lost their minds. Truly. It felt like the air in the 3Arena had cracked open like an egg, the high pitched screaming spilling out over the stage. She smiled, looking out over the audience briefly before launching into 'bury a friend,' one of the standout tracks from 2019's WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?
"Oh my god," she laughed into the mic, sighing and gazing out over her populace. "I missed you guys so much."
As a fellow 20-year-old, it's hard to imagine the level of surrealism that must come with a sold-out stadium gig. Having just dipped her toe in adulthood, and she has achieved what any musician would dream of: #1 hits, platinum records and a clean sweep of the Grammys. Besides winning the Nobel Prize, there's not much left for her to achieve. From where I'm standing, a few months younger and a couple hundred feet away from the already-music-legend, it's a reality that is entirely, wholly unrelatable.
Yet, watching her on the big screen, jumping and grinning and reaching out to the audience, she looks so real. Probably because she is real — just a person who has combined talent, skill, savvy and luck to reach unheard of heights.
"Alright, so the way that tonight is gonna work is that everybody in this room is going to move their bodies," the singer explained after a rhythmic, wry performance of 'NDA.' "I want everyone to feel free and loose and good. Not one single fuck given."
Maybe that's the secret to her success — not one single fuck given. But as I watched her, channeling relentless energy as she lept and sprinted across the stage while still reaching into glass-shattering high notes, it was clear that she did give a fuck — she cared so much about putting on a good show. And that she did — whether it was smash hits the likes of 'idontwannabeyouanymore' or deeper cuts (as deep a cut as a Billie Eilish song can be) like 'GOLDWING,' she combined showmanship with musical dedication, proving herself as both a master recording artist and performer alike.
Finneas, producer/recording artist/brother, then came down the slanting ramp from his platform, where he was playing bass, acoustic guitar in hand. The pair pulled up stools to a set of microphones, performing a stripped down, acoustic version of 'Your Power.' The song, which in its recorded state was already tenuously beautiful, was brought to new levels live. You could see the ripples of pain across Eilish's face as she sang the plaintively questioning refrain, "how dare you? And how could you? Will you only feel bad when they find out?"
"About 'Your Power,' I really love that song and I feel really attached to it," the singer explained. "But the main thing is that we need to do a better job protecting young girls. That's about it."
Hanging onto the acoustic guitars for 'Male Fantasy,' Finneas then returned to his station at the back of the stage, Billie climbing onto an elevated platform that swung her around to the outer reaches of the balcony. How someone could stand, hundreds of feet in the air, overtop hundreds of people and sing a song as demanding as 'Ocean Eyes' is beyond me — but for Eilish this was just another day of work, singing with her whole chest as she stood superimposed over countless winking flashlights.
We were in the home stretch — reaching track 20 of Eilish's 25 song marathon. On her return to Earth, she sang the gently nostalgic 'Getting Older,' the screens behind her covered by roving home videos, showing Billie and Finneas as little kids. To me, it cast the entire performance in a rosy glow, once again emphasising Eilish's, now almost overwhelming, humanity. Watching her sing the line "things I once enjoyed/ Just keep me employed now/ Things I'm longing for/ Someday I'll be bored of/ It's so weird/ that we care so much until we don't" it was painfully obvious; she was a 20-year-old, searching for her lot in life. Despite the chasm of success, accolades and money that separate her from the average young adult, at our core we're all the same — never sure that we're in the right place.
In an expected finish, her last two songs were 'bad guy' and 'Happier Than Ever.' Foregoing an encore, she jumped into her atmospheric hits with a gentle reverie, cracking into the break of 'Happier Than Ever' with a breathless energy — the crowd screaming the lyrics almost louder than the speakers.
Once it was over, or rather, 'when the party's over,' and Billie had retreated once more into the world of magazines and award shows, it was hard to wrap my head around what had just happened. On one hand, it was just a pop show by someone who was good at performing. On the other, it was strangely affirming, proving that the height of success lay someone who was good. And that's something that cannot be understated.
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