8th September 2022
Spark Arena, Auckland, New Zealand
Review by Kate Taylor, with photography by Phil Walter/Getty Images.
As Billie reminded us, Spark Arena was the first arena venue that she ever played, anywhere. A surreal, ‘I’ve made it moment’ before the global ascension to power, for one of pop’s most marketable entities; happened in the little ol’ land of the long white cloud. Returning to us this September, Billie Eilish opened a three-night residency in Auckland to a Spark flushed with punters, merched up to the nines and ready to wash their eyes over the scion usually flickering at them through their screens.
Immediately, it can’t be overstated what a groaning weight of talent Billie is. She is, quite simply an incredible vocalist with a delicious kook level and an authenticity of expression that is, sublimely freeing to watch. These uncynical eyes appreciated so much the creativity, talent and a-Billie-ty on show; and to register mentally that this performer is only just starting to grow as an adult. So, we’ll have a long career ahead to enjoy with Billie as coming heartbreaks and tribulations will deliver album gold for decades to come. I’m not saying Billie is Bowie, but it feels special to witness an act that’s so clearly massive, at the beginning of their aggressively upward trajectory and to be able to appreciate it in real time.
A deep dive into every aspect of Billie Eilish’s triumphant return to Spark would be a disservice. While it feels weird to have a live music review with spoiler alerts, I think, considering the sheer volume of parents that have been sitting on their Billie tickets before taking along their Rangatahi to what may well be their first concert experience and that there’s still two performances to go; I can’t do them ‘Rents like that. Too much a of salivating rave review, you might be set up for disappointment. Give too little details in order to preserve the evening, and you might think it was a lesser show. There definitely felt like there was a complicit, Marvel-esque, ‘Let’s just keep this between us’ intimacy to the evening that I feel like I’ve got to uphold. A clever setlist with seamless transitions, has us bouncing through tracks so each important song for that someone in the crowd is brushed past and honoured. Ocean Eyes, NDA, Lovely (with Khalid), Lost Cause, Therefore I Am, Billie Bossa Nova, Your Power, My Strange Addiction, Getting Older, Everything I Wanted, When the Party’s Over and the iconic title track from Happier Than Ever; were particular highlights for me. Something I can’t shake is the heavy-duty sports strapping tape girding Billie’s calves. While it looks cool and intentional as part of her stage outfit, the concerned Aunty in me worries that at 20, giving as much as Billie is on stage continually and needing this PPE, reminds me that when a human being becomes a brand, a movement even; that the groundswell of attention and focus on them is colossal, and that they are, just a human. Flesh and bone, as Billie coos in the lyrics to one of her own odes.
Billie is a dichotomy in performance. Pigtailed pogoing manic pixie punk girl one moment, oozing confusing and tantalising sensuality the next, continually bathed in a stage lighting design that bounces off her frame and creates the feeling of a live Anime spectacle before us. The stage set is innovative and Instagrammable. Minimalist to the eye, the stage transforms via projections to become the dark and deserted road of the ‘NDA’ video, or the inky writhing coils of the python from the ‘Your Power’ video symbolism; aiding in the feeling of taking a journey through Billie’s catalogue with her, rather than just being performed at. Personal and intimate, yet on a massive scale. Constantly checking in with her audience, energy is balanced expertly between raucous rebellion, quieter acoustic introspection with Finneas and Billie accompanying each other on guitar, front, and centre stage; to moments of gratitude and introspection while encouraging those present to be present in their audience ship. It was confrontational too, watching as Billie comes down into the crowd as the screams of her fans ring loud into her mic through the arena, as they paw at her. It feels dangerous somehow, seeing Billie teasing and tantalising fans so close, but so far under the innate understandings and boundaries of the performance contract.
When Billie’s pinch me moment came full circle from perhaps her initial recognitions of her own fame, to now, one thing is certain. Aotearoa loves Billie like she’s our own and we’ll keep trying to convince the world that this is true.
Were you there at Spark Arena for this triumphant alt-pop gig? Or have you seen Billie Eilish perform live somewhere else before? Tell us about it in the comments below!
Note: Ambient Light was provided passes to review and photograph this concert. As always, this has not influenced the review in any way and the opinions expressed are those of Ambient Light’s only. This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase a product using an affiliate link, Ambient Light will automatically receive a small commission at no cost to you.
If you enjoyed this content, please consider donating towards the running of Ambient Light, covering expenses and allowing us to expand the coverage you love by visiting our PressPatron page.