Don’t be an asshole. Don’t judge anybody. Have fun. Laying down the law with these three rules at London’s O2 Arena as she performs the first show of a six-night sold-out run, Billie Eilish is at the top of her game. If tonight is any indication, that’s exactly where she’s going to stay.
Five years to the day since her first headline show in front of just 220 people, and exactly two weeks before she becomes the youngest solo artist to headline Glastonbury Festival, Billie Eilish is the moment.
From the instant she springboards under the stage lights, she holds the room in the palm of her hand. Tearing into a set that deftly balances the lucid nightmares of her debut album with the distorted glamour of ‘Happier Than Ever’, this is Billie Eilish’s world now – and for an hour and a half, she’s inviting everyone to live in it.
Against a backdrop of hellish nightmares (fire, fiends, and flickering figures, oh my!), Billie is an angel in pigtails and cycling shorts here to guide us through. Instructing the audience to “scoop all the bad stuff out of your brain,” to jump, to get low, to “just relax and breathe,” her shows are less about losing yourself in the music and more about simply being present and enjoying wherever the hell you are.
As she conducts a Mexican wave from a rotating crane at the back of the arena, demonstrates how to “flop your limbs”, then later asks “anyone want to give me a haircut right now?” from her position centre stage, every moment invites more enthusiasm than the last. The sing-alongs get louder and the dance moves get wilder, but despite how the setlist might read, this isn’t a greatest hits show. The night is as much a celebration of the moment and the future as it is everything the singer has achieved so far.
“You are valid in everything that you feel and everything that you go through, and nothing that you feel isn’t valid,” Billie reminds the crowd as she takes a breather mid-set. Frequently pausing between songs to beam out at her audience, her own excitement is every bit as pronounced as the enthusiasm in the faces that look back at her.
When she takes a seat with brother Finneas for a stripped-back selection of songs, it’s the echoing refrains of new offering ‘TV’ which linger the longest. With lyrics referencing the ongoing battle to preserve abortion rights in the US and the absurdity of watching a celebrity defamation trial online, the song’s already made headlines (a feat that’s even more impressive given that this is only the third time she’s played it), but it’s the track’s closing line that perhaps feels the most powerful here. There’s something intensely moving about singing along with an arena full of people, still crooning after the acoustic guitar fades away, “maybe I’m the problem” – we can all do better, and there’s no better place to start than acknowledging that in the present.
“Know that you are safe, and you are very loved, and you are important,” Billie imparts towards the end of her set. Sat under a single spotlight, there’s the very real sense that this is just a girl, singing her songs in front of an audience, asking them to experience this with her.
Watching her perform, it feels like there’s nothing more powerful than that.