As the home of the Bulls and the Blackhawks, the United Center has hosted many of the best athletes of all time. Gravity-defying maneuvers are common place in The House That Jordan Built, but they don’t typically happen during musical performances.
Enter Billie Eilish – ready to get to work in an oversized t-shirt, bike shorts, and knee pads – who started her sold-out Chicago show on March 14 by blasting out of a hole in the floor, getting some serious air, and absolutely sticking the landing. The sold-out crowd cheered at the top of their lungs as music’s modern MVP launched into “bury a friend.” Nightmarish images – in the same vein as those made famous by Aphex Twin, whose “Windowlicker” was played between show-opener Duckwrth and Eilish’s set – flashed across the giant screen during the When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? hit.
Eilish left it all on the stage and she made it clear that she wanted fans to do the same.
“We have one rule for the night. It’s to have fun. Do you promise me that you will try,” she said later adding that she hopes everyone will loosen up their shit, flop around, and abandon all judgement towards themselves and others.
“Therefore I Am” was an early crowd-pleaser and every cellphone in the venue went up to record Eilish’s performance of her Khalid collab “lovely.” Throughout the night, Eilish was accompanied by her drummer, Andrew Marshall, and her multi-talented collaborator and brother, Finneas, who was treated to a lot of love when he was introduced before “you should see me in a crown.”
This tour, in support of the 2021 album, Happier Than Ever, was many fans’ first chance to experience the newer, more subdued material in the live setting. Eilish wove tender tunes like “Halley’s Comet” – performed in a spotlight cage of purple lasers – and the syncopated samba sounds of “Billie Bossa Nova” into the setlist with ease. “No Time to Die” stood out as well as a moment made for goosebumps while, near the end of the show, “bad guy” had everyone in The UC singing along with every word.
Eilish spent most of the performance on a giant catwalk getting as close as possible to as many fans as possible. A screened ramp elevated her for all to see and she went to even greater heights when she performed “OverHeated,” “ocean eyes,” and more from a basket atop a crane that allowed fans in the 200 level to be eye-to-eye with the superstar.
Mid-set, a stripped down acoustic interlude found Eilish and Finneas at their most open as artists, songwriters, and people. Eilish’s pitch-perfect, emotive vocals on “i love you” were thrilling and “Male Fantasy” created a still, silent moment of poignancy. Finneas took lead guitar on “Your Power” while Eilish strummed and sung along later explaining that the song means a lot to her.
“We need to protect our young girls,” she said encouraging everyone to look out for their friends.
“Onto another sad song,” she added with a smile.
Music brings people together with a shared emotional experience. In the hands of Billie Eilish, sad songs quickly transform into moments of triumph and all that’s left is joy.