I remember seeing Billie Eilish perform live for the first time, at Charlotte’s Spectrum Center in October 2018, when she opened for Florence + The Machine – when Eilish was just 16, when almost no adult had never heard his name.
She was a strange and wonderful revelation.
His sound wasn’t just subversive of garden variety pop; it almost felt like being on another planet, from the seemingly ASMR-inspired vocals to the dark, brooding, sometimes scary, sometimes sleepy instruments and synths. Yet she also had that groovy energy, a twitching, bouncy enthusiasm that infected anyone who arrived early enough to catch her lean, nasty 12-song set.
In the three years and just over four months since that night, Eilish has become one of the hottest young music stars on Earth, and on Sunday night she returned to North Carolina to put on a bigger show. twice as long and several times as spectacular for a crowd well north of 10,000 screaming fans.
Almost all the adjectives I used for his 2018 performance would apply again: weird, wonderful, groovy, convulsive, energetic. The only word I would have a harder time using this time would be subversive.
I mean, she music is of course still subversive. It’s just… well, I’ll explain in a minute. Let me first touch on another topic here.
It was just the third leg of Eilish’s “Happier Than Ever” tour, which kicked off in New Orleans on Thursday and then stopped in Atlanta on Saturday night for show #2. But it played like a show that has already solved all the problems: from the moment she magically appeared in the middle of the stage – wearing black pigtails, white sneakers, spandex bike shorts and an oversized pink t-shirt that repeated the word “anime” and a partially obscured NSFW word – she was in complete control of her performance.
Just watching her move around the stage could be mesmerizing, whether she thrashes around in a solo mosh while reciting the chorus of “You Should See Me in a Crown”; or affecting a drunken-looking stagger as she sang “Lost Cause”; or ballroom dancing in place during “Billie Bossa Nova,” or slowly lifting her head back until she’s essentially doing a standing bend in the middle of “Bury a Friend.”
That said, she sat down a few more times.
Halfway through the show, she and her older brother Finneas, who is slowly becoming very famous, took stools and guitars to the middle of the stage and sat next to each other. After introducing him as “my best friend and co-writer and producer” — and after joking, “Here’s Billie Eilish, everyone” — she sang the chilling folk ballad “Your Power,” which she called it “one of my favorite songs we’ve ever written.
Later in the show, Eilish returned to her stool with a guitar, alone this time, and asked all of her fans to take a seat. (Those who could, at least. The floor section was general admission and standing only.)
“You didn’t even hesitate,” she said with a sneer, as everyone in the upper and lower levels immediately sat down at her request. Most had been up for over 70 minutes at this point, and she was surely right when she assumed Why they didn’t hesitate: “Tired legs.
She even asked everyone to put down their phones, just for one song: the meditative ballad “When the Party’s Over.” (She does not have enough get 100% compliance on that one. But she got closer than I expected.)
Although it’s not always easy to say, Eilish has a beautiful voice, more easily recognizable when you cut Finneas’ production and just leave it with an acoustic guitar. What makes it unique, however, are those rougher edges, those mumbled or even whispered lyrics, those violent changes in pitch and tempo in the middle of the song, and – as I mentioned before – those wild ways in which she moves her body.
Seriously, if she’s on the move, she’s in some kind of fascinating to-see movement.
It was also true when she was here with Florence + The Machine. But whereas when Eilish was an opener it was basically just her and a mic as she jumped, stomped, twirled and contorted, this time around she had a variety of elaborate sets at her disposal to add to the pleasure of the eyes.
For the trippy “NES”, for example, the A/V magic felt like she was standing in the middle of a freeway at night as cars projected onto a massive video screen swerved to avoid noise. to hit.
Later, after jogging from the front of the arena to the back, she sang “Overheated” and “Bellyache” — as well as shortened versions of “Ocean Eyes” and “Bored” — while standing in a basket at arm’s length from a cherry-picking machine that moved her slowly through the air above the ventilators on the lower level.
And as Finneas and drummer Andrew Marshall struck the final note of the monster hit “Bad Guy,” the show’s penultimate number, tens of thousands of bits of white confetti exploded from the rafters.
Which brings me, really, to my one and only constructive criticism.
I’m not against confetti. I’m not opposed to a mid-show mini-set performed in a pod at the back of the arena. I don’t think it’s a huge mistake on her part to stop and ask how the people upstairs were doing, and how the people downstairs were doing, and how the people upstairs were doing, as she did four songs in his Sunday night set. It’s not bad for her to try to get the crowd to wave.
It’s just that, for some reason, those parts of the show made things more cliched than I expected.
What I liked about Billie Eilish is her subversiveness. The fact that his music, his aura and his state of mind, they are not cliches. I think that’s why I wish his show – and don’t get me wrong, overall this one is incredibly well paced and very, very entertaining – was maybe just a Small a little less conventional, and/or a Small little less predictable.
In fact, in some ways, she has managed to buck the trends. I appreciate that she didn’t waste time with outfit changes, and didn’t waste time with a contrived encore, opting instead to announce with two songs to do that she had two songs to do (the closest being an absolutely positive rendition of the “Happier Than Ever” anthem). To me, these decisions fit with his maverick image.
But I think she can get away with coloring outside of the typical pop show lines, even Following.
She has time to work on it. Incredibly, she is only 20 years old. She has only released two full studio albums in her career. The former won the Grammy for Album of the Year; the second may well win the same prize at the 2022 ceremony in April.
On paper, she does very little harm so far. She can afford to take risks.
I can’t wait to see what his next ones will be when it comes to giving live performances.
Billie Eilish’s setlist
1. “Bury a friend”
2. “I haven’t changed my number”
4. “That’s Why I Am”
5. “My Strange Addiction”
6. “I don’t want to be you anymore”
8. “You should see me in a crown”
9. “Billie Bossa Nova”
10. “Golden Wing”
11. “Halley’s Comet”
14. “Your Power”
15. “Male Fantasy”
18. “Eyes of the Ocean”
20. “Getting Old”
21. “Lost Cause”
22. “When the Party’s Over”
23. “All the good girls go to hell”
24. “All I Wanted”
26. “Happier Than Ever”
This story was originally published February 7, 2022 7:05 a.m.