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been | Billie Eilish at Spark Arena

INSANITY. That is the only way to describe witnessing Billie Eilish perform at Auckland’s Spark Arena last night. I had little idea what to expect when I arrived for the performance – I’ve been listening to her music on repeat for months, but nothing could prepare me for what I saw.

At 17 years old, Pop music’s terrifying and prodigious singer-songwriter already had the venue completely sold out. It’s her third visit to New Zealand after playing The Tuning Fork in 2017 and at Laneway in 2018 on the back of her critically acclaimed EP Don’t Smile At Me.

Seeing the arena packed, it hit me how massive she really is, but when she finally appears on stage wearing her signature oversized sweatshirt and bootleg Gucci shorts, the loud screams that bordered on desperation; one comes to understand that “BILLIEMANIA” is a “thing” – a Generation Z take on “Beatlemania”. No, I’m not really “that” old, but I am a Millennial, which currently feels like light years away from Gen Z.

The entire audience, comprising predominantly of teenage girls, sang back her songs word for word, screaming at times, and she’s only just released her debut album “WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO”. It was incredible.

She opens the show with her latest track “Bad Guy” and as her voice warms up, you could clearly tell she was under the weather – the audience is happy to help by singing along. As she belts out her every hit to date, her energy levels soar and she’s dancing around in typical Billie fashion – influenced by hip hop and a heavy dose of horror aesthetic. The Exorcist comes to mind. I love it.

Her pop influences are a-plenty and can be heard in her playful, word-association lyrics, and her precociousness has earned her comparisons to Lorde – however her vocals along with her deadpan stare and “no fucks given” attitude for me personally resonates with early Fiona Apple, who was around the same age as Billie when her debut album came out.
The moody singer of her generation, Fiona has already said everything Billie is repurposing long ago, namely at the MTV Acceptance speech:

“This world is bullshit! And you shouldn’t model your life–wait a second–you shouldn’t model your life about what you think that we think is cool, and what we’re wearing and what we’re saying and everything. Go with yourself. Go with yourself.”

Sound familiar?

Perhaps a redux, an amalgam of influence, nonetheless you can’t deny the Billie effect and what she represents for her own generation. She even has Dave Grohl talking about her:  “The same thing is happening with her that happened with Nirvana in 1991”. Pretty big stamp of approval there.

As she wraps up her third track of the night “Lovely” – Billie addressed the crowd:

“This is f***ing crazy. No, for real. I’m standing here trying to think if this is a dream or not because my dreams be trippin’ sometimes and this seems like one of my dreams. There ain’t no way this is real. I’m not even gonna get into it because I’m gonna break down…”

And she manages, just about.

One of the many highlights of the show was the pared down and her first-time performance of “I love you”. As she sits down with her brother she serenades her audience expressing her rawest emotions and giving you the “feels”.

Towards the end, she pleads the audience to put down their phones and be present, be in the moment with her. Be it the current age of social media or 17th century Europe – François de La Rochefoucauld comes to mind here: “We are more interested in making others believe we are happy than in trying to be happy ourselves.” She speaks the truth. And with that, her last song of the night “Bury your friend” I put my phone down. Finally…whilst being “in the moment” I get it.

Billie gives her final bow, tears up and walks off stage.