Billie Eilish – Spark Arena September 8, 2022

Billie Eilish blew the crowd away with her first of three performances at Spark Arena this September celebrating the release of her second album Happier Than Ever.

NZ fans hadn’t had a chance to see her perform in three years and she was very clearly, very dearly missed. 

Dora Jar

Dora Jar began the night with a bedroom pop rock set supported by a 3 piece band. Her set at first came across kind of generic but soon revealed itself to be a lot more creatively different than it seemed on the surface.

Full of high runs with growling rock undertones and acoustic guitar based songs with heavy bridges, it became apparent that she is an opening act people would come early for.

Billie Eilish

The electricity is static amongst the anticipating audience as the music starts and house lights dim. A sea of phones rise up in the hands of eager fans wanting to capture the concert from its birth.

The drummer Andrew Marshall and the percussionist, Billie’s brother Finneas O’Connell start the show with a beat pattern over a droning pad that emulates what could easily be a trailer to a horror movie, in a good way.

Creepy yet cool visuals of monsters that somehow seem to match her outfit light up the massive screen wall behind Billie as she nails a feisty gaze and begins Bury a Friend.

How does one small person fill up so much room on a stage? She absolutely commands attention. Jumping up and down to the beat of the song, she brings the energy at an indescribable level.

The stage reveals an LED ramp that leads from the bottom section up to a higher level where the band sits, the production team behind this show must be insane. 

Everything is outstanding, the visuals must have taken someone hours, the lights were incredible, even the live camera work switching from front to side cameras was so seamless it looked like it could have been filmed prior. On top of Billie’s mind blowing performance, it is honestly hard to flaw this show.

For NDA the ramp becomes a road, she is crouching in its centre, growling her way through the lyrics, a seductive, daunting predator out to get whoever has hurt her in the past.

It is moments like this that it becomes clear how much performing really is art. A special breed of people have the combination of confidence, work ethic and creativity to pull it off. Despite it being obvious that Billie has a team of experts and a lot of money behind her, it is still glaringly obvious that not only is she the talent, but that she also puts the work in.

She is power, but she is also grace. The lights turn a soft blue and she comes to stand in front of a mic stand in the middle of the room. She drags it across the stage for idontwannabeyouanymore, one of her most popular songs off her first EP Don’t Smile At Me.

It is nice that she takes a moment to sing in stillness, it makes the big energy moments more wowing and the overall evening feel special and carefully crafted.

A uniqueness to Billie was her unmasked gratitude for where she is in her career and what was instrumental to getting her here.

”This was the first arena that I ever played in,” she tells the audience…

“Three and a half years ago, I did the show, went back stage and bawled, it was life changing, and I’m back again with you and it’s so nice”

She then goes on to introduce her band, Andrew Marshall on drums and her multiinstrumentalist brother Finneas who managed to juggle percussion, keys, bass and acoustic guitar throughout the night. She also introduces a couple of key rules for the night ahead…

”Number one, don’t be an asshole.”

“Two, please don’t judge anybody here, we are not about that. We are here to be ourselves and have fun and be free.”

“Number three.. have fun motherfucker! “

”Anything that’s up here [she points to her head] bothering you, take it right now, pull it out of your head, put it in front of you and scream at it. I’m gonna ask for more of that in the next song.”

During that next song, You Should See Me In A Crown, when she says “scream”, boy does everyone scream.

Her facial expressions are on point throughout the whole performance, her entire body is present on stage.

She slides off stage after Billie Bossa Nova and an angelic choir of harmonies begins Goldwing. A godlike golden light beams down upon the audience bathe the arena in a peaceful calm as people settle in waiting for Billie to re enter the stage.

A Ferris wheel takes over the screen behind her, slowly rotating as she is encompassed in a purple triangle of light, standing in front of a mic stand again for Halley’s Comet, the second lulling moment of the set. But it does not lull for long.

Her energy is so menacing and then oh so kind and sweet.

She is lying on the ramp singing ilomilo, even her eyes have expression as she glares at the audience from under her fringe. She is doll-like in this song, spinning in a broken song box, both scary and beautiful at the same time.

A spotlight circles a spot on stage where she and her brother take a seat on two stools, Finneas starts on guitar and they both sing together during Your Power one of two more acoustic based songs off her most recent album.

This song is so lovely and delicate, a delicious moment amongst the chaos. His deeper brethier vocals beautifully support the clarity of hers. Someone hands Billie a guitar halfway through and she takes over the main melody as Finneas plays an overlapping riff. 

A video of a little girl, presumably a young Billie, singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star pops up on the screen to introduce Getting Older, an introspective tune about realising how things change as you grow up. This song is accompanied by a series of home videos that spark feelings of amusement, sadness and nostalgia for the past and how ignorance truly is bliss when you are younger.

A stand out line from this song is “things I once enjoyed, just keep me employed now” a relevant indication to how pursuing a creative career can sometimes mean turning a passion into a job.

Billie lets her hair loose for Lost Cause a song she states “goes out to anywhere who wasted your mother fuckin time” and in case she hadn’t proved her flexibility already throughout the night, drops into the splits as the song finishes.

Bringing the vibe down to chill mode for a final prolonged moment, Billie stops to chat with the audience for a while..

“For this part of the show I like to start over, hit restart, relax, take a breather. I want everyone to think about what they are grateful for and what makes them feel happy and peaceful.” the audience interjects with screams of “You Billie!!!”

“Not me!” she brushes off, smiling.

“Think of your own thing! Oh I love you so much, just look around and look at what we have, look at this shit!”

As people hug their neighbours, the energy shifts ready to rise again as Billie cranks it right back up to the level of intensity the show began at for the final stretch of the performance.

Bad Guy is full of grit and sass, she is once again crouching, crawling, kicking, running and screaming, it is a wild ride.

Her final song, fittingly is Happier Than Ever, the title track of her album and the title of her tour. This song starts smooth and slow with a cloudy sunset background behind her that makes it seem like she’s walking on air. 

The bridge section however, flips everything upside down as the clouds turn black and white, thunder booms around the audience and the song transforms from pretty into hard rock power. Everyone on stage is using up every last drop of their energy, the drummer smashes out fill after fill as Billie runs around stage until the very last hit where white light beams blinding into the audience.

And just like that it’s over, Finneas, Andrew and Billie hold hands to take a bow and people seem to get up to leave a bit stunned, justifiably so. 

This show was so well balanced between its high and low moments. Having listened to Billie in the past but not having seen her live until now, leaves a lot to the imagination but it still blew those images completely apart. Billie is a serious powerhouse and absolutely owned the spark arena stage.

Jemilah Ross-Hayes

Click here to see the Billie Eilish setlist

Photos courtesy Phil Walter: Getty Images: