Photos courtesy of Joe Lemke and Alexa Chihos
For many fans, including myself, the wait for Billie Eilish to perform on a proper headlining tour following the massive success of her sophomore album “Happier Than Ever” seemed to drag on, with festival headlong slots filling the void until Eilish could start the first leg of the extremely anticipated Happier Than Ever World Tour. After selling out the North American stretch shortly after the tour’s announcement, the moment for fans across the Twin Cities to pour into the packed Xcel Energy Center finally came. A resounding feeling of anticipation, excitement, and upcoming catharsis radiated in the Xcel, as fans eagerly awaited the 7:30 show start time. From the vantage point of the GA pit, surrounded by thousands of eager fans around a catwalk stage, the moment the lights dimmed as opener DUCKWRTH took the stage, the first wave of the impossible to count excited screams filled the arena.
As smooth as the opening groove of their first song, DUCKWRTH came on stage and got right into their set, swinging for the fences with their eclectic mix of soulful R&B/Rap and rock n’ roll sound. The group came out strong and it absolutely paid off; the easygoing, charismatic nature of DUCKWRTH got the crowd off their feet and dancing along to more than a just handful of lines in a song. It was clear from the start that most of those that were in attendance were there for Eilish, but that didn’t matter; DUCKWRTH had an uncanny ability to command the stage, making an opening arena performance seem more like a headlining show. Taking a break every few songs to check in on the crowd, DUCKWRTH broke into a few heavier songs that showcased their craftsmanship, adding heavy guitars and even EDM/synth elements that captured the crowd’s attention. Even with zero background or previous listening experience with DUCKWRTH, many in the crowd, including myself, didn’t even bat an eye at not knowing the lyrics to sing along; the funky basslines, guitars, dual vocals, and technical drumming were more than enough to win the crowd over. With how easily their set fit in with the high energy demand of an arena show, DUCKWRTH made it feel like their live set was more than deserving of the attention of the packed Xcel, making an incredible impression on an audience that was eagerly awaiting the night’s headliner.
Outside of the closing two songs, there were a few moments during the set that really got the crowd going. The first was during the slower, acoustic section of her set, where Eilish and her brother and co-writer/musician extraordinaire were on chairs in the middle of the stage and hinted that the next chapter, whatever that looks like, is past the ideation stage and is in the works. The second was Eilish’s sprint off the stage and down the side of the arena to get to a crane that rotated around the back half of the arena during a four song medley. Last, but certainly not least, was when Eilish fondly recalled her sold out performance at the 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis as one of her favorite shows during her tour in 2018, calling out the short stage and sold out, intimate crowd. As the set came to an end, confetti filled the Xcel, a fitting start to “Happier Than Ever.” The closing song of the set seemed to garner the loudest crowd participation of the night, and an incredible finish to a massive 28 song setlist that had both the crowd and Eilish smiling from ear to ear throughout the entire evening.
Setlist: bury a friend / I Didn’t Change My Number / NDA / Therefore I Am / My Strange Addiction / Idontwannabeyouanymore / lovely / you should see me in a crown / Billie Bossa Nova / GOLDWING / Halley’s Comet / No Tome to Die / Oxytocin / ilomilo / i love you / Your Power / Make Fantasy / Overheated / bellyache / ocean eyes / Bored / Getting Older / Lost Cause / when the party’s over / all the good girls go to hell / everything I wanted / bad guy / Happier Than Ever