It’s 2017, on a Monday in early September, and Billie Eilish has taken to the stage at The Tuning Fork in what is her first ever New Zealand show. She bounces around the tiny stage in a bright blue ski suit, struggling to move easily in the constricting fabric, but jumping around as much as it can allow... Fast-forward to the present day, and a lot has changed for Billie Eilish.
Instead of playing The Tuning Fork, she plays the arena which that little venue is attached to. Instead of 350 people at the show, there’s 8,000. And instead of performing early songs and the ‘don’t smile at me’ EP, she’s got a debut album to perform from - a catalogue of songs that went #1 on release not only in New Zealand, but Australia, the UK, and the US.
But what hasn’t changed is the connection Eilish has with her fans, which somehow manages to make an arena-sized show feel intimate, with Eilish checking on her fans all throughout the set, and assuring them of her gratefulness and awe of the number of people there to see her.
Opening the show was her producer, co-writer, collaborator, and older brother Finneas, who took to the stage for half an hour to showcase his own collection of work - opening with ‘I’m In Love Without You’, and continuing with other songs like ‘Claudia’ and ‘College’, and closing out with ‘Let’s Fall In Love For The Night’. He’s been steadily releasing a slew of singles alongside his work with his sister over the past few years, and the performance gave him the chance to share this other side of his music that fans might not be familiar with - one girl who walked in next to me put it aptly, “Holy fuck, he’s good.”
When he returned to the stage at 8.45pm alongside Eilish, the energy was at an all-time high - and the word for word sing-along of ‘Bad Guy’ set a tone for the entire performance, with fans singing and screaming along to every single song. In her first address to the crowd, all Eilish could say was, “Oh my god,” five times over, clearly trying to take in the enormity of her performance. Diving into ‘Lovely’ (her collaboration with Khalid) saw her already tear up just three songs into the set, before taking everyone through newer material like ‘My Strange Addiction’.
After ‘watch’ and ‘&burn’, Eilish once again tried to form words to express her feelings, managing to get out, “This is fucking crazy. I’m standing here trying to think if this is a dream or not," and though definitely not a dream, it almost felt like the realisation of a dream turned reality seeing Eilish so overwhelmed by the response.
The live debut of ‘i love you’ was a standout moment of the show, with Eilish and Finneas sitting next to each other at the front of the stage, and the audience lighting up the arena with their phone lights for the heartfelt and emotional song.
With no proper encore, Eilish left the stage after finishing up ‘bury a friend’, and though cheers of an encore came while the album's closing track ‘goodbye’ played out over speakers, she merely returned to take one last glimpse at the sea of people, before bounding off into the darkness.