The question of the screaming factor is answered after a few seconds: Billie Eilish hasn’t even entered the stage, only a few light effects twitch through the hall and the crowd reaches infernal decibel levels. So nothing has changed since the Los Angeles singer – still in her teens – made her first major tour appearances in Europe three or four years ago.
She’s now 20, has collected a bag full of Grammys, and an Oscar as well. More than 100 million people follow her on Instagram, 45 million on YouTube. Around 17,000 of them sold out the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Berlin in a very short time and are now screaming their hearts out. Apart from Billie Eilish, this kind of Beatles-mania-esque ecstasy is probably only sparking K-pop sensation BTS at the moment.
And so the singer, who appears on stage with a powerful leap from a depression in the floor, leaves large parts of the singing of the first songs to the audience – one would hardly understand them anyway. The start is overwhelming, the headlights flicker at full power, Billie Eilish bounces around in her black and white outfit like a rubber ball, the basses make the concrete tremble. With “NDA” the small ascending keyboard motifs under the urgent beats trigger further screams of joy from the mostly young female fans.
You were looking for an idol who, especially at the beginning of his career, always ticked a bit differently than the many well-formed pop stars of the 21st century. Loose clothes, brightly colored hair, not necessarily with a smile on their face, but concise texts about teenage fear, self-empowerment and lovesickness, which older people can also relate to.
However, Billie Eilish’s numerous speeches are clearly aimed at the young majority in the hall, in which she repeatedly asks how the crowd is – and even has security bring water to the first rows towards the end.
The singer obviously enjoys spurring the fans on to new screaming and jumping performances. Also very nice was a mobile phone light La Ola initiated by her, which wafts through the arena like a swarm of fireflies. A DIY light effect in the middle of a high-tech show – this is how you create closeness. In order to exhaust all the possibilities of the impressive set-up again in the next moment. You can say what you want about the multi-purpose hall at Ostbahnhof, but it’s just perfect for a spectacle like this.
In the back part of the stage, in front of a huge projection surface, there are two square platforms that can be moved up and down, on which a drummer is positioned on the right and Billie Eilish’s brother Finneas on the left. In between there is a sloping surface that leads to the triangular front stage, from which a narrow catwalk leads into the interior.
Billie Eilish is constantly on the move in this large expanse, happily showing off her knee-high hops in place. She’d probably bounce around even harder, but the black tape on her shins—she’s been bothering her for a long time—indicates her body doesn’t allow for any more wildness.
The roughly 100-minute show slows to a halt, most noticeably in the middle when Billie Eilish and Finneas sit down center stage with acoustic guitars. It’s the only time her brother, who is five years her senior and with whom she writes all her songs, which he also produces, says anything. It won’t be more than a “Hi!”
In return, Billie explains that they will now play one of their favorite songs. Especially now, in view of the devastating decision of the Supreme Court, the piece means a lot to her. She begins to beat the rhythm of “Your Power”, Finneas providing the melody line that her vocals follow. “Try not to abuse your power” is the central line, which indicates an abuse situation, just like the following sentence “Will you only feel bad when they find out”.
The urgency of MeToo will only increase, rather than decrease, after the abortion ban decision, which Eilish explicitly mentions again in the following new song “TV”. It’s the most thoughtful moment in an otherwise positively energetic concert. For some songs, the singer lets herself be spun around on a lifting platform in the rear part of the hall, a touch of Neukölln May Day comes up, only the announcer praising the ride is missing.
Billie Eilish and her mini band perform a balanced mix of songs from her breakthrough album When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go and from last summer’s released Happier Than Ever. Audiences greet the old and the newer tunes with equal enthusiasm – and in fact, they all work equally well.
A highlight is “You Should See Me In A Crown”, which gives a massive stomach bang, accompanied by an XXL spider appearing on the screen – a greeting from the video clip. “Oxytocin” with the Timbaland-like hopping beat and later “Lost Cause” with the concise bass line, which Finneas briefly presents on the catwalk at the very end of the piece, also fit perfectly into the party.
Billie Eilish saves himself from the ritual of leaving the stage and then playing the encores. She prefers to give a short farewell speech, in which she once again affirms her love for the audience, and then lets her smash hit “Bad Guy” off the leash. Confetti rain and the epic “Happier Than Ever” end a fine evening, on which some adults must have squealed a bit inside.