By Parker Reed, Staff Writer
In the pouring rain storm outside the Prudential Center on February 22, myself and 20,000 fans waited in anticipation to see Billie Eilish. Ironically, we recreated Billie Eilish’s beloved “Happier Than Ever” music video by screaming the lyrics into the chilling rain, just like she did when shooting what is now a 168M streamed music video. The wind plastering 30 degree rain on fans’ faces seemed like no obstacle that could amount to the one the pandemic hurdled at us fans 2 years prior when her WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO TOUR was just on the rise.
As the crowd settled into place and awaited the start of Billie’s Happier Than Ever show, we warmed up our vocal chords by chanting “Billie, Billie, Billie,” and created a fan-orchestrated wave that rippled over the crowd minutes before Billie’s deafening intro dropped, leaving the crowd with butterflies of suspense.
The drum beat intensified, and the pure white lights flashing faster than ever before was enough to make the crowd go crazy. But when Billie launched up from underneath the stage it made every single person in the room feel nothing short of elated.
Smoke rose from the diamond shaped stage, lights flashed like strobes amidst the blackness of the arena, Billie’s voice cut into the excitement with an interlude from “Happier Than Ever,” crying out “YOU MADE ME HATE THIS CITY.” And as if we weren’t loud before, when Finneas (her brother, producer, and co-writer) and drummer Andrew walked on stage, we yelled at the top of our lungs, knowing Billie would appear any second. The drum beat intensified, and the pure white lights flashing faster than ever before was enough to make the crowd go crazy. But when Billie launched up from underneath the stage it made every single person in the room feel nothing short of elated.
The question of what Billie would appear like on stage was in the air. Were we going to get the blue haired Billie still navigating life, the Hollywood Bombshell Billie in timeless pieces, or the 7-time Grammy winning Billie? But like every other concert before COVID-19, our Billie remained the same. Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell, dressed in her custom made T-shirt and spandex, knee-pads, and floppy tiny pigtails, came up from beneath the platform, exuding the childlike essence we had all been waiting for. Amidst all the chaos in the outside world, Billie was our escape for the next 90 minutes, where the only bad guys were the ones she sang about in her haunting songs.
The pink-hued lights abruptly changed to red and welcomed her renowned hit “Bury a Friend–” the commencement of the show. Monsters, the likes of which are only seen on Stranger Things, came across the screen as Billie commanded the whole arena through her prodigious stage presence. Bending over backwards at the bridge of “Bury a Friend”, clapping with her audience, and strutting down the catwalk left all 20,000 people screaming at the top of their lungs.
This experience will serve as a learning opportunity for me. I believe I speak for the majority when I say that staying at home taught us a new ability that we can utilize as we move away from covid. It doesn’t matter if it’s learning to take nothing for granted or living in the moment. As you travel through life, cherish it as you carry it with you.
After she trekked down what was now a visual of a highway with speeding cars for “NDA” and effortlessly transitioned to her popular “Therefore I am,” she paused to address the crowd of fans for the first time. In between pants for air, she divertingly remarked, “I got to tell you. This is way better than what I expected. I don’t know why. But this is the loudest crowd I’ve ever seen. You all are so goddamn loud. I love it. ” At those words of praise, the tumultuous crowd was only prompted to get louder.
Segueing from kiss off songs like “My Strange Addiction” to early songs like “Lovely” from her EP Don’t Smile at Me, it was evident that Billie knew how to get superlative reactions out of the audience, even in the nosebleeds. And as Billie took a break to converse with us, the crowd began to hush; a few of us from my section took the opportunity to scream “We love you” across the stadium. Billie stunned us by replying, “Oh, I love you so much!” and it couldn’t have been played out any better. For the rest of the night she continued to reflect on the astonishment of the crowd’s energy, and announced that usually at this point in her show she asks everyone to stand up and give all their energy, but tonight she didn’t need to do that.
To all in the stadium, it was obvious that Billie was born to perform. Her songs “You should see me in a crown” and “Goldwing,” required the arena to scream as loud as they possibly could. Her effervescent fluidity on stage during “Billie Bossa Nova” and “Lost Cause” exhibited to all that she was the divine focal point of the show– at no point were backup dancers necessary. Just Billie, Finneas, Andrew, mystifying visuals to coincide with expressive lyrics, and a crowd full of loving, adoring fans were essential to putting on the show that she did.
Getting the crowd to engage with her contagious energy has been the precedent since day one. Billie instructed the crowd with speeches like the one before her song “Oxytocin” and said “There’s gonna be one moment where I am gonna ask every mother-f*cker in this room to get really low. I don’t care how old you are, how young you are, or where you are in this room, we are all going to have fun together.” Convinced everyone to be on their feet and having a good time regardless of their circumstances. During her songs “Overheated,” “Bellyache,” “Ocean Eyes,” and “Idontwanabeyouanymore,” Billie traveled to the other end of the stadium on a crane to address the audience further away, leaving no fan with a feeling of neglect. And as Billie effortlessly floated above the heads of spectators, the lights from the audience swayed throughout the arena, providing satisfying moments of fulfillment for everyone in the arena.
What has always set Billie Eilish apart from other superstars is her outstanding equilibrium that plays out in all aspects of life. Her ability to dress completely herself in eccentric outfits, dabble in any music genre, and make a room full of 20,000 people feel a rollercoaster of emotions through powerful singing adds evidence as to her ability to put on an outstanding performance.
During the show, she gave fans moments to breathe when she transitioned from fast-paced songs to ones like “Halley’s Comet,” “Getting Older,” “When the Party’s Over,” and “Everything I wanted.” She took time to let fans grapple with the understanding that the person we cherish was right before our eyes– not on an iPhone screen. This caused pools of tears from almost every face in the crowd. Taking moments to stop and look in front of us and seeing the smiling face of Billie Eilish, the one who saved so many of us, was the most rewarding sensation; it felt like home.
Taking moments to stop and look in front of us and seeing the smiling face of Billie Eilish, the one who saved so many of us, was the most rewarding sensation; it felt like home.
And as if she didn’t contribute enough by creating relatable music for fans all over the world, Billie took the extra measure to undertake the task of educating the world on topics like climate change, sexual abuse, and the dangers of pornography. And at the concert, her role as a teacher was never demoted but heightened as she has partnered with Climate Activist Organization Reverb to spread the word about plant-based meals and the efficacious tie that being green has on the impact of climate change. For tours, she banned all plastic– including water bottles and straws– to control the output of carbon emissions she also flew green.
Even on stage, while singing her song “All The Good Girls Go To Hell,” images of stranded polar bears, burning forests, and factories were projected for the eyes of her viewers. She spoke of the urgency to spring into action before it’s too late, and did the same with her songs “Your Power” and “Male Fantasy.” Billie taking the time through her beguiling lyrics, while strumming on her guitar, to open the eyes of fans to the reality of sexual abuse and pornography, was raucous for a human soul but an obligation if we desire change.
Soon, the time came for Billie to woefully say her last words, before concluding the show with her two colossal hits. Billie expressed her unending gratitude to the audience –still in awe of the otherworldly experience we just had– and the efforts we made to be with her that night. A collective sigh of despair was heard as Billie announced, “Okay everyone, I’ve got two more songs and then I’m out,” which immediately flip-flopped to screams of joy when she said, “This has been one of my favorite shows this whole tour.”
The arena was ready to give it their all for the last two songs, and they jumped like mad in synch with Billie as “Bad Guy”’s beat dropped. Billie’s hair– now out of the pigtails– swayed back and forth in reaction to her body, which was moving across the entire stage with bounds of glee and excitement.
And after a roller coaster concert, replete with themed montages, brightly colored blinding lights, nonstop piercing shrieks from the audience, and a two-person band pouring their sweaty bodies into every song, it was time for the moment we had all been anticipating. The appetizers for the delectable, exhilaratingly euphoric “Happier Than Ever” main course were over. A storm of catharsis obliterated all sense of social convention when the Grammy-nominated chart-topper Billie swelled from a ’60s-style start into 20,000 people, animalistically yelling, “YOU MADE ME HATE THIS CITY.” Every repressed, unnerving emotion, every smattering of tangled personal history in the crowd erupted like the confetti from the rafters as Billie closed, with enough vivacity to provide all the gratification the crowd had been yearning for.