For the return of massive, arena-sized concerts to Vancouver for the first time in two years, you couldn’t have picked a much better headliner than dark pop phenom Billie Eilish. Drawing a sea of fans who mirrored her all-black attire and hair colours spanning the entire rainbow while holding signs featuring such adulations as “BILLIE MADE ME GAY” and “I SKIPPED MY MIDTERM FOR YOU,” the sold-out crowd came ready to participate in the emotional catharsis her music provides.
Bouncing onto the stage in pigtails while horror-movie imagery played on the screen behind her, Eilish opened with the chilling single “bury a friend” while dutifully accompanied as always by her producer and brother FINNEAS on the guitars. Save for a ramp that raised and lowered throughout the set and the screen with some tonally appropriate images of protest signs, undersea scenes, and Eilish’s baby photos, her stage set-up was rather minimal, allowing more space to focus on her whispery, entrancing vocal delivery – when you could hear it, at least. Eilish’s quieter disposition in combination with a manic fanbase 17,000 strong often meant you were hearing the audience’s voices more than hers.
While jumping wildly to her more uptempo hits and knocking industrial beats must have been somewhat of a religious experience as concerts made their return, a series of songs in the show’s second half where Eilish instructed the audience to sit down, take some deep breaths and put away their phones was the most magical moment. Bringing FINNEAS front and centre to mirror their childhood bedroom writing sessions, Eilish ran through some of her more minimal tracks like “Male Fantasy,” “i love you” and, most powerfully, “when the party’s over,” her eyes scrunched shut as screams from the crowd subsided, indulging everyone in a collective exorcism of emotions. After a segment where Eilish got into a crane that circled around the arena, bringing her closer to her fans in the upper deck as she ran through some of her biggest hits, a confetti cannon exploded. Eilish began waving around a Canadian flag while performing the rock-influenced closer, “Happier Than Ever.” As the entire band playfully slid down the ramp during the goodbyes, it was a parting reminder that Eilish is still extremely young – if you didn’t catch her on this tour, you’ll likely have quite a few more opportunities.