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Billie Eilish’s concert rules & how Pinoy fans happily complied

Nathalie M. Tomada - The Philippine Star
Billie Eilishâs concert rules & how Pinoy fans happily complied
The Grammy-winning American hitmaker Billie Eilish tells fans at her first Manila concert for her Happier Than Ever, The World Tour: ‘It’s so crazy to be on the other side of the world and you’re here. I totally appreciate you... You mean the world to me!’.
Jasper Lucena of Live Nation Philippines

MANILA, Philippines — There are only two rules at Billie Eilish’s concert, which were laid down by Billie Eilish herself.

“Listen, here’s how the night’s gonna work. There’s gonna be a couple of rules. One is, don’t be an a**hole to anyone. And the other rule is have fun, please,” the 20-year-old American hitmaker told her Filipino fans during the Manila leg of her Happier Than Ever, The World Tour held at the Mall of Asia (MOA) Arena on Saturday. “I just want everybody to lose it, be jumping and screaming, and lighten the load. Don’t worry about (expletive) anything else.”

The concert was in support of her sophomore album Happier Than Ever, which reigned as No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart for several weeks after its 2021 release. But the show also featured the pop prodigy’s earlier works from her commercially-successful debut EP, Don’t Smile At Me, released when she was only 15, and her first studio album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, which made her the youngest artist ever in Grammy history to score major awards at 19.

In her signature baggy outfit and back-to-dark hair in pig-tails, Billie emerged on the Manila stage to a dramatic laser show that transitioned into a rave party. She launched things off with Bury A Friend from her first studio album, which also became the singer’s first No. 1 hit on a Billboard radio airplay chart. The opening performance ended with a back-bending pose before she further roused up her Pinoy fans with the greeting: “Manila, how you feelin’?”

The MOA Arena crowd would be hyped up even more by more pulsating songs from Happier Than Ever — I Didn’t Change My Number, NDA (where the massive LED TV behind her made it appear like she was walking down a deserted road) and Therefore I Am.

“It’s my first time to be here, I’m so happy to be with you,” she said before shifting back to older songs like My Strange Addiction, and then slowing down with the jazzy Idontwannabeyouanymore and the sweet ballad Lovely she recorded with Khalid — songs that spoke about her battle against depression.

Why Billie is a cut above the rest, and how she’s defying genre labels and deftly mixing multiple influences in songs, were showcased in the next numbers: You Should See Me in A Crown (reportedly inspired by a lot of things, including J-pop), the slowdance-perfect Bossa Nova Billie, as well as Goldwing, which sampled a hymn by a classical artist named Gustav Holst.

Another highlight from the roughly two-hour show was when a playful Billie made audiences — from the VIP standing area to the bleachers — “get down as low as you can to the floor” before jumping around to what fans have called her “sexiest” Happier Than Ever song Oxytocin.

Of course, Billie offered more than a glimpse of her beautiful relationship with her older brother and perennial collaborator Finneas O’Connell on stage, beginning with their acoustic rendition of the folk ballad Your Power from the new album. The song, as the singer has stated in interviews, is a statement calling out abuse of power and authority being done, especially against vulnerable women.

As fans would know, almost every song of Billie was co-written with and produced by Finneas, whom she affectionately presented to the audience as “my brother, my best friend in the world and the smartest person I know. We’ve been working so much together. I’m so lucky to have him in my life and on this tour.”

 

Billie and Finneas would do two more gorgeous acoustic numbers, namely Bellyache and The 30th, which they performed live for the first time in Manila.

“It’s out but we’ve never done it live before,” Billie said. “Please bear with me, it’s a very hard song to sing, so I’m gonna try my best. This song is dedicated to my dear, dear friend, that’s all I’m gonna be saying.”

While the artist may also be known for her dark songs, dark lyrics and even dark music videos, Billie sent light and love, and positive words at the concert, which noticeably drew a lot of teens and kids accompanied by fathers and mothers. Yours truly was standing next to young girls, forever shouting their love for Billie, while another teenager gave me a post-show crash course on the artist’s entire discography and career. Such is her influence.

Perhaps, in acknowledgement of her younger followers looking for role models, or anybody who can relate to emotions and struggles she has sung and written about while becoming one of the biggest music stars of this generation, Billie said, “I want you to think of all the things you are grateful for, that you are happy that it exists.”

“I want you to think of all the people you are grateful for, the people that make you feel good, make you comfortable and make you like yourself. I want us all to take a second to be aware of how lucky we are, you know,” she further said, drawing a loud “Amen” from an audience member.

“I just want all of us here to be happy, that we are breathing and we are all together,” she added before launching into her mesmerizing, almost hymn-like song that showcased her vocal prowess, When The Party’s Over.

Billie also highlighted the climate change issue in her performance of Everything I Wanted, one of her No. 1 singles. She stressed, “We really need to do a better job of protecting our planet and protecting our people — all of us! And we gotta stand for each other and stand with each other. And I want to say that I stand with you, I support you and everything that makes you who you are.  I love you so much. I want you to be proud of who you are.”

Billie’s setlist also included Getting Older, Lost Cause and All the Good Girls Go To Hell. She also performed her first-ever viral hit Ocean Eyes and Bad Guy, which gave her the distinction of being the first artist born in the 21st century to have a No. 1 song on the Billboard Hot 100, according to Guinness records.

It’s safe to say that her Filipino fans happily complied with her concert rules as she thanked them profusely just before her last two numbers. After giving credit to the crew, security, venue and her parents (whose throwback photos with little Billie were earlier flashed on the LED screens), she said, “I wanna thank you! Thank you so much! It’s so crazy to be on the other side of the world and you’re here. I totally appreciate you and I hope you had fun tonight as I did. You mean the world to me!”

The Happier Than Ever Manila show culminated with a rain of confetti, which amped up the feels of the official last song, the title track Happier Than Ever. A breakup anthem that Billie had described in interviews as her “most therapeutic” starts out as this soft lullaby before building up into a powerful force of a song. It set the tone for an explosive encore in Goodbye.

The Billie Eilish concert formed part of Live Nation Philippines’ lineup of highly-anticipated shows this year. Next on the list are Jo Koy, Aug. 31 (SM Mall of Asia Arena); beabadoobee, Sept. 16 (New Frontier Theater); SEVENTEEN, Oct. 8 and 9 (SM Mall of Asia Arena); LANY, Nov. 11, 12, 13, 15 and 16 (SM Mall of Asia Arena); Clinton Kane, Dec. 3 (New Frontier Theater); Maroon 5, Dec. 8 (SM Mall of Asia Arena); and keshi, Dec. 11 (New Frontier Theater). More details are available on www.livenation.ph.

BILLIE EILISH

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