Friday night was Benee's first of two sold-out shows at Spark Arena, and it felt equally as momentous for the crowd attending as it did the artist performing in front of them.
The pandemic sucked the life out of the live music scene this year, and we were plagued by countless concert cancellations. Not for Benee though. Not even a second Auckland lockdown in August could derail her biggest headline tour to date. Thank goodness she's from New Zealand. Like one of the openers Muroki, who Benee recently signed to her new label Olive put it: "We're at the biggest gig in the world right now." The volume of people in one room took a moment to get used to, but it was great to hear the echo of cheering that loud at a music venue again.
Auckland's gig scene was set back alight again by the 20-year-old, who wore fairy wings, cat ears, and a spacesuit during different parts of her set. Her quirky pop was propelled by her undeniable stage presence. The last time I saw her live was at Laneway Festival all the way back in January (feels like another lifetime, right?). Commanding an arena show, Benee seemed right at home, if not growing into the massive crowd before her.
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This concert was a family affair - there were several parents with young children in tow in attendance - and also the usual young adult crowd too. The audience showed how diverse and enthusiastic her fans are, all have been won over by her infectious and relatable energy.
Armed with an arsenal of new songs and her hits on election eve, Stella Bennett got her fans dancing. She opened with her first ever single Tough Guy, which she put out three years earlier. Since then she's won four NZ music awards, had a song go viral on TikTok, performed via telecast on US talk shows and racked up over 2.1 billion streams.
"We're rockstars. Rockstars on tour," Benee paused to say during her set, marvelling at the sold-out Spark Arena crowd. And perhaps the success she's had too.
Earlier in the week she announced her debut album and her concert was a taste of what fans had in store: Happen To Me about the singer's fears teased a vulnerable element to the forthcoming record, out November 13. All The Time sounded single-ready. The EDM-sounding track she snuck into the encore was a glimpse at her next move.
But it was her hits that kept fans hooked over the course of her set, a dazzling show backed by a live band and interesting visuals on the big screen. Supalonely was a definite highlight, as was Glitter which she announced proudly was written about a night out at Family Bar. That comment attracted a few cheers in agreement from the over 18s.
When Benee wrapped up the night with Snail, and as the dancing slowed to a halt and the lights came up showing the massive audience in full, the magnitude of everyone's Friday night at a concert sunk in. This may be the biggest gig able to safely happen in the world right now, and it seems appropriate that Benee was the maestro leading the extravaganza.
• Benee plays her final sold-out show of her nationwide tour in Auckland tonight, and the performance will be live-streamed on her website.