Billie Eilish makes fans ‘Happier Than Ever’ in Chicago return
At just 20-years-old and with just two full-length albums to her name, Eilish more than held her own in the cavernous United Center on Monday night.
Anyone still questioning whether Billie Eilish can be considered the future of rock ‘n’ roll (to use Dave Grohl’s fighting words) got the answer after seeing her positively own the United Center Monday night.
Now a few weeks deep into her “Happier Than Ever” world tour, Eilish has all but inked her status as a bonafide frontwoman. One who can cue shrieking fans with a pluck of an acoustic guitar (as she did on “Male Fantasy”), can pack in 28 songs in 90 minutes in total punk-rock style, and bucks the standard arena concert formula by forgoing costume/set changes and even an encore. In an industry that still grapples with how to promote women artists who don’t always fit into the pop mold, Eilish continues to be the rule-breaking Joan of Arc, changing the old guard for the better.
Monday’s show was a homecoming of sorts—the United Center, as Eilish noted, was her first arena-level venue back in 2019. Delivered with her unrivaled panache and brooding joy, this performance showed why Eilish, at just 20 years old and just two full-length albums to her name, can more than hold her own in the cavernous space.
The night opened with the sinister demure of “Bury a Friend,” pummeled by the double-handed live percussion from her two-man backing band, drummer Andrew Marshall and her brother/producer/multi-instrumentalist Finneas. The dark-meets-sweet juxtaposition was pure alchemy that elicited the power of The Prodigy (helped by the strobe-fueled video feed) and mixed with the allure of Bjork. If it sounds inane, it’s just the beauty of Eilish’s multiple musical identities that always mingle so well. In one night, she shifted from trip-hop songstress (“All The Good Girls Go to Hell”) to trap-club kid (“Bad Guy”) to pop ingénue (“Hailey’s Comet”) to soundtrack starlet (“No Time To Die,” the Grammy-winning song she wrote for the “James Bond” franchise) and even cabaret queen (“Billie Bossa Nova”), all the songs easily melting together.
Wearing a pair of kneepads, Eilish came ready to play, and she encouraged her fans to do the same throughout the night. “There’s no judgment, you don’t have to worry about how you look. We are all equal here,” she told the audience, who clung to her every command, at one point even joining the singer in a brief meditation.
Several times Eilish spoke directly to the predominantly young, female crowd, preaching a message of being and loving one’s self. No more so than in discussing “Your Power,” saying it was the one song she was most attached to and protective of. “I didn’t have a song like that when I was younger,” she said, adding we have to “protect our young girls.” Taken from Eilish’s emotionally gripping new album, “Happier Than Ever,” it’s a great example of the record’s honest affirmations given by a Gen Z heroine. Her spoken word mantra “Not My Responsibility,” wherein the singer decries the misogynistic opinions that have been given of her and women in general, is another.
“Your Power” came in part of the set where brother Finneas joined her for a two-part acoustic serenade with Eilish proudly showing him off as her consistent collaborator. (In the early days, they’d load songs to Soundcloud, helping Eilish become one of the standout success stories of music’s digital era.) Finneas earned nearly as much applause as his sibling throughout the night, and rightfully so. Eilish probably would be the first one to say she’d be nothing without him. Finneas’ keen ear for production and nuanced sound layers are the glue in this project, and seeing him on tour with Eilish only makes it more apparent.
Later in the set, watching family home videos of baby Eilish during “Getting Older” gave another glimpse into the inner world of the artist who, even with all her clout, appears authentically humble and gracious in her reciprocity of love for her fans. When she was not mingling with them on the thrust stage, she ascended via a cherry picker that rotated around the arena where she could continue to make close contact. If she can continue to pull that vibe off at her upcoming headlining appearance at Coachella and Glastonbury, it will serve her well.
For the show’s confetti gun-blasting finale of “Happier Than Ever,” Eilish, Finneas and Marshall had one last move, sliding down the ramped stage for their final “bow,” done again like true rock stars.
1. “Bury A Friend”
2. “I Didn’t Change My Number”
4. “Therefore I Am”
5. “My Strange Addiction”
8. “You Should See Me In A Crown”
9. “Billie Bossa Nova”
11. “Hailey’s Comet”
12. “No Time To Die”
15. “I Love You”
16. “Your Power”
17. “Male Fantasy”
20. “Ocean Eyes”
22. “Getting Older”
23. “Lost Cause”
24. “When The Party’s Over”
25. “All The Good Girls Go To Hell”
26. “Everything I Wanted”
27. “Bad Guy”
28. “Happier Than Ever”