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BILLIE EILISH @ Fremantle Arts Centre gets 8.5/10


Billie Eilish @ Fremantle Arts Centre 

w/ FINNEAS
Friday, May 10, 2019

8.5/10

Welcome to Beatlemania 2019. Sorry… Billiemania.

Billie Eilish tickets were the hardest in town to get hold of last weekend, and why wouldn’t they be? The 17-year old’s Fremantle Arts Centre show was about as intimate a space as you’ll see the cultish goth-pop phenomenon in for the next two decades – she could have sold out Perth Arena, given the roll she’s on. Then there were the screaming fans. As apprehensive parents littered the grassy hill at the back of a sold out Arts Centre, teenagers – predominantly girls – packed the front of stage area waiting for a glimpse, and when they finally got their wish, excitement levels hit fever pitch.

FINNEAS

The same could also be said for support act FINNEAS – that’s Eilish’s 21-year old brother and producer – whose set induced some high pitched screams of its own. He lacks his sister’s personality on stage, but like a better looking Ed Sheeran he played the nice guy ginger and had the crowd transfixed with a mix of piano, electronics and acoustic balladeering (including his song dropped just a week prior, I Lost a Friend). Finishing on his biggest hit Let’s Fall In Love For the Night on acoustic guitar, the talented producer isn’t in any danger of upstaging his sister soon, but it’ll always be interesting to hear his latest productions as a precursor to what Eilish might have in the wings. And his most important work was still to come as part of little sis’s backing band.

Billie Eilish

Even in a smaller venue than usual, Billie Eilish didn’t disappoint when it came to flashing lights and shiny things. Emerging to a mixture of spider and devil animations suggested we were headed in a dark direction from the outset, as Eilish stood stationary back of stage like a predator about to attack. It’s that sense of theatre that has set her apart from her contemporaries so far – the horror-themed photo shoots and penchant for arachnids make Taylor Swift’s bad reputation look positively churchy, and pegs Eilish closer to shock rockers like Alice Cooper than the pop stars of the day.

When she finally ran forward, it was with the uninhibited energy of an unhinged 17-year old having the time of her life. Launching straight into one of her best songs, she opened on something of a mission statement: “I’m the bad guy… duh!” It was arguably the track of the night. The wonky My Strange Addiction followed, before Eilish asked the crowd if they were ready to take it up a notch – and she sure wasn’t messing about. You Should See Me In a Crown was a full on attack of strobes and a continuation of the spider visuals she opened with. It was awesome – you knew it was because the crowd let you know in no uncertain terms.

Billie Eilish

Eilish engaged with the crowd comfortably and charismatically – perhaps surprisingly so. Alternately dedicating a heartfelt idontwannabeyouanymore to “those who despise themselves” then asking the crowd to “jump like kangaroos!” during Copycat, Eilish is a natural performer. The strength of those two non-album tracks also gave depth to her set, which didn’t have to rely solely on her debut album. Not every deep cut was a winner – &burn featuring Vince Staples on the backing track was like a bad Eminem and Rihanna collab. On the other hand, 2017 single bellyache was one of the night’s singalong standouts, Eilish climbing into the crowd for much of the song.

Billie Eilish

In the end we were glad for the intimacy – it meant there was never any danger of a crush at the front of the stage (as we saw on the east coast) and kept the hysteria a few comfortable notches down from where it could easily have gone. Rather than finishing on an encore, Eilish announced that she had just two songs left, quipped “thanks to your parents for dragging you all here” and cleverly surmised that letting a couple of her biggest, most visually spectacular hits (when the party’s over and bury a friend) do the talking was the most effective way to leave fans wanting more.

Better still, the latter’s final words are “when we all fall asleep, where do we go?”, also the title of her album from earlier this year and that was that’s exactly what she left us pondering. That’s a lot of smarts for a 17-year old; a lot of smarts, a lot of star quality and a lot of dark, weird shit. Pop music hasn’t sounded this fresh in a while. Duh.

HARVEY RAE

Photos by Stu McKay Photography

 

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