Photo Credit: Kelia Anne MacCluskey
Written by Ashley Friedman
Billie Eilish gave a crowd-pleasing performance at the Keybank Center last night. The singer-songwriter graced Buffalo with her talent for her Happier Than Ever, The World Tour.
The show started with former New Yorker, Dora Jar. Jar, 24, set the tone for the show with her eccentric and bubbly personality. Her mannerisms reminded me of Billie in the sense that she was a crowd-pleaser, somewhat quirky and a kind soul.
Jar starts the show with “Opening,” a song featured on her recently released EP, Digital Meadow. She’s animated with movements that, well, to be honest, would probably break my body. Now, California-based, this particular performer is popular amongst the Gen Z crowd.
Her backstory is touching, having grown up with a family that has had a few life challenges thrown their way. The power to heal is a choice and Jar has done that through her music. The singer was inspired by Stephen Sondheim musicals growing up and her Mom, an actress, and Broadway performer. Jar mid-performance sends her Mom a shout-out, her Mom jumps up and down in excitement. One can only imagine how proud she is of her daughter.
Jar got her first taste of fame after uploading little snippets of her playing music on Instagram. Eventually, these snippets caught the eye of a producer in London, who told Jar that they should work together.
Towards the end of her set at Keybank, Jar takes the time to interact with the crowd. At one point she mentions her songwriting and how that plays into her music. ‘…There is no persona, there is just me.’ And, I could feel that with every word she sang, she was comfortable in her skin and it was empowering.
Jar picks up her guitar to finish out a few more performances for songs like “Tiger Face,” and “Look Back.”
I think the one thing I was impressed with was a quick malfunction of her headset during the performance. The audio team mid-song came out to fix Jar’s headset and for a brief moment, the lyrics stopped flowing from the artist’s mouth. However, she managed to pick it up quickly mid-song as the team was still fidgeting with her equipment. A true performer is an undistracted one, one that can pick up mid-song as if nothing has happened.
She was a performer through and through and came off as an overall sweetheart. During the performance, she remarks having heard that this was the first concert for a fan and makes mention that wherever that person was: “Welcome to your first concert.”
Jar also managed to pick up a tambourine for “Lagoon,” as she croons the lyrics, “No backbone, / no relationship wreck, / I’m on my own.”
There was a brief intermission around 8pm with Eilish to take the stage at 9pm. The setup was simple with Billie. I mean, think about it, the Grammy-award winning artist doesn’t need a fancy setup for her natural-born talent and it’s what makes her such a force to be reckoned with in the industry; there’s no need for over the top props or equipment, she shines on her own.
Soon, the lights turn down, the crowd goes crazy, fans yell “I love you Billie,” and we see Eilish mid-stage as the intro for “Bury A Friend” begins to play. “What do you want from me? / Why don’t you run from me?” Eilish, decked out in a t-shirt and spandex-like pants, doesn’t need diamond-studded costumes to be beautiful. She powers through the stage, taking the runway set up in the middle of the crowded floor with undeniable energy.
The song ends and Eilish yells, “Buffalo how you feelin’ tonight…” as she heads into “I Didn’t Change My Number,” and then the infamous, “NDA,” a song that touches on the dark side of fame. In the background, racing cars fly by as the platform on stage suddenly turns into a road. Billie walks up to stand in the middle.
If you recall, the video for “NDA,” self-directed by Eilish, showcases the singer walking alone at night on an ominous street, as she details the pressures of maintaining relationships in the public eye.
Following “NDA,” Eilish head into “Therefore I Am,” once again gracing the runway and finding her way to the floor of the runway only to look fans face-to-face as she sings, “I’m not your friend / or anything /
Damn, / you think that you’re the man.” A fan next to me says, “Oh my gosh if she was that close to me, I would pass out.”
Speaking of passing out, there were a few in the crowd. Eilish, known for taking the time mid-performance to check on fans, made sure to ask if everyone was okay and even had the crowd take water breaks, eventually passing out water to the floor attendees.
Eilish soon heads into “My Strange Addiction,” a song from her debut studio album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? A fan throws a rainbow flag on stage and Eilish sweeps it up only to wave it in the air to the beat of the song, wrapping it around her body. Eilish, fun and free-spirited has a likeability about her that makes you feel accepted as you are.
Red lasers dance around Eilish on stage to the beat of the song and eventually she dives into “idontwanttobeyouanymore,” with “You Should See Me In A Crown,” soon to follow. This song, an empowering tune about self-worth and confidence, offers a spider visual on the screen, walking to the bass and electro beat that plays in the background offering a dark and dramatic mood.
Next up is “Billie Bossa Nova.” A group of dancers pop up on the big screen behind Eilish, the vibe is sensual and sultry and Eilish starts to show off salsa moves around the stage. Her movement is tasteful, classy and intriguing.
We then head into “8” the first released track of Eilish to feature a number in the title. Originally titled, “See Through,” the song utilizes unique vocal mixing and production elements and is said to be written about that heartbreak where you keep trying to fight for someone who isn’t interested in being fought for. That lesson is always a learning experience.
The lyrics, “You’re lookin’ at me like I’m see-through / I guess I’m gonna go / I just never know how you feel / Do you even feel anything?” showcase an attempt by Eilish to initiate heartfelt conversations, with someone avoidant of feeling feelings. Towards the end of the song, Eilish has the realization that she gave her heart to someone who did not reciprocate the love.
During this song, Eilish engages the crowd by having them sing the well-known “Da-da-da-da-da-da-da / Da-da-da-da-da-da-da” portion of the song. And suddenly everyone is “Da, da, da-ing around the arena.
Eilish soon sings “Halley’s Comet,” the eighth track on the singer-songwriter studio album Happier Than Ever.
Eilish standing mid-stage chats with the crowd once the song is over and goes into a heartfelt discussion about the importance of realizing self-worth and self-acceptance. “We are all the same. None of you are better than the rest of you. You are all amazing,” she says.
During this next song, Eilish tells the crowd that she’s going to request everyone get low and it doesn’t matter who you are, we’re all going to get low together. Soon Eilish goes into “Oxytocin.” A song that the singer once commented, ‘“If I’m in a mood of conquering things and conquering the world, I would play ‘Oxytocin’ while wearing a merch hoodie with the song’s title on it and a note “The love chemical.’”
The song, “ilomilo,” is soon to follow. An aquarium visual plays in the background as Eilish stands amid the water.
Soon we see the stage crew bring out two chairs and mics to mid-stage. Eilish comes down with FINNEAS to perform the next song. Sitting propped up in the chair, Eilish is handed an acoustic guitar, something that the singer commented she picked up recently and feels “cool” that she learned how to play. “It’s fucking hard,” she comments, “I’ve always played piano,” says Eilish.
She introduces the next performance with, ‘“The song we’re about to do is one of my all-time favorites, it just really hits a stronger chord for me… it was very cathartic, satisfying and overwhelming. I wish I had a song like this to listen to when I was younger.” She jokes that the crowd can sit down for this one considering everyone has remained standing up until this point.
The performance is raw as Eilish’s natural talent shines through as she effortlessly sings, “Try not to abuse your power. / I know we didn’t choose to change,” as she strums the guitar. For a brief second, the crowd settles and everyone lives in that moment with Eilish. Flashlights begin to pop up around the arena, swaying back and forth to this simple, yet empowering, melodic vibe of “Your Power.”
At that moment, I felt like I was the only one in the room. It’s so rare to come across an artist that can make you feel that way.
Once the ballad ends, Eilish lifts up the mood, tells the crowd that it’s time to get crazy again and heads into “Male Fantasy.” “Male Fantasy” builds on the premise of the unrealistic standards set by pornography and the discomfort that lingers around the topic despite its prevalence.
We then sweep into, “OverHeated,” and Eilish disappears from the stage and runs through the crowd, a fan in front of me yells, “Oh my gosh, I touched her arm!” Eilish makes her way to the other side of the arena on a small stage set up where she jumps on a lift that hoists her into the air. The 300 section of the arena goes crazy as Eilish feels face-to-face with her higher-up fans.
Eilish eventually heads into the song “bellyache,” as she swings around on the lift and makes her way around the crowd. “bellyache” is the sixth track on Billie Eilish’s first EP don’t smile at me.
Speaking to Vice, Eilish had this to say: ‘“It’s obviously fictional. When me and my brother are writing we find it fun to put yourself into character or become someone else, to write about something we’ve never done before. ‘Bellyache’ is about the concept of guilt, when you do things in the moment because you feel so strongly about them. In the end, you’re left with the decision you made. That line—”I thought that I’d feel better, but now I gotta bellyache”—is about how you kinda know that you’re the worst but you don’t care. It’s about a psychopath who regrets being a psychopath, but doesn’t really care.”’
Soon, snippets of “Ocean Eyes” follow and a close-second passes by as Eilish makes her way back to the main stage.
“I’m getting older, I think I’m aging well” she croons. Eilish’s home videos play in the background and suddenly fans get a glimpse of her childhood. A fan next to me says, “I’ve never seen an artist share such intimate home videos like this, that’s amazing.” The song is “Getting Older,” and it’s one of the most intimate songs in my opinion of Eilish’s.
Towards the end of the performance, Eilish mentions Valentine’s Day coming up and makes mention of her love for the day and goes into an expressive monologue that it doesn’t matter if you’re in a relationship or not, “Valentine’s Day is fucking cute and you can still have fun even if you’re by yourself,” she says.
Eilish brings out a bag of Valentines that she put together. “I was only able to get 11,” she jokes because it’s all she could find at the moment she thought of the idea! The Valentines were a box with Eilish’s name on it. She takes the Valentines and throws them into the crowd. A fan catches it in front of me and takes a picture with the box smiling from ear to ear, welling up with excitement.
“Something’s in the air right now / like I’m losing track of time,” Eilish starts to sing, suddenly a bra is thrown on stage. Eilish picks it up like it’s no big deal, “I’ll add it to the collection,” she jokes and continues to sing the eff you anthem “Lost Cause.” Soon, dozens of bras are thrown on stage, even underwear! “You guys!” Eilish says laughing, picking up a bra and joking that it’s cute and might fit her.
Eilish starts to converse again with the audience and talks about the importance to “live in the moment, be present and aware and grateful to be alive,” a beautiful transition into the hymn-filled “When The Party’s Over.”
Soon we’re led into “When All The Good Girls Go To Hell,” FINNEAS comes down from the top of the stage to play guitar down the runway. Meanwhile, Eilish is walking the runway too and mid-walk catches a pair of underwear flawlessly. The moment looked like it belonged in a movie.
We’re approaching the bottom of the setlist, Eilish is wrapping with “Everything I Wanted” and starts to interact with the crowd again reading the signs that everyone brought. One says “Will You Be My Valentine” in which Eilish blushingly says yes. Another says, “Will you pay my college tuition,” and Eilish responds, “Sure, how much is it?”
Soon, someone from the crowd hands Billie a hot pink sign, something that the fan has been holding onto since 2018 only to want to gift it to Eilish. “I recognize you, I remember your face,” Eilish says. The singer-songwriter is such a sweetheart.
The intro to “Bad Guy” starts to play and someone yells, “I love this song! This is my favorite” from behind me. “White shirt now red, my bloody nose / Sleepin’, you’re on your tippy-toes,” sings Eilish as she dances around on stage. Soon, white confetti drops from the ceiling and fans find themselves in an indoor snowglobe. It was a magical moment and everyone went crazy.
Last, but not least, we come to the final song, “Happier Than Ever,” recently nominated as Song Of The Year at the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards.
Fans are singing at the top of their lungs with Eilish, “Made all my moments your own /
Just fuckin’ leave me alone.” Although, of course, everyone knows that this is the last song of the night, I think anyone that attended last night’s performance can say with confidence that Eilish is always welcome back to Buffalo.