For the past couple of years, Billie Eilish has been building a following. Tentative, careful but fearless, she’s spoken through her music and never shouted for attention. Tonight is first of three incredibly sold-out shows at Shepherd’s Bush Empire and before she’s even taken to the stages, there’s an electric burst of anticipation and the knowing excitement that Billie has already grown far beyond rooms this small.
And yet, Billie attacks tonight like it’s the only show that’s ever mattered. Never demanding, never craving the spotlight, she takes to the stage (via a giant spider with mirror ball eyes and roaring screams that never quite fade away) with the confidence of someone who’s been doing this half her life, and the excitement of someone who’s wanted it for even longer.
Despite the churning hype, ‘My Boy’ instantly unites the room. A lit match on gasoline soaked wood, the fire burns bright and eternal. The swaying roll of ‘Idontwannabeyouanymore’ continues the charge with Billie dictating the pace, relishing the control and enjoying the ride before the poignant slowburn of ‘Lovely’ sees her hands entwined with the audience, a ramshackle conductor with the whole room following her every move.
‘bitches broken hearts’ hangs in the air, mesmerising and soaked in beauty while ‘Party Favour’ dances under a purple haze and “I Wish You Were Gay’ carries a gleeful weight, every word already scratched across hearts despite the fact it was only released a few hours ago. It’s all surprisingly tender. Except when it’s not.
‘WHEN I WAS OLDER’ twists and warps, a haunted party anthem with a lust for glorious release that the room feasts upon while the drop of ‘Bored’ sees kids scale seats for a better view. The room moves as one during the rampant, unforgiving ‘Bury A Friend’ and Billie plays air guitar while ‘bellyache’ causes chaos and turbulent joy.
Her music might be inspired by isolation, let down and loneliness but tonight, she’s never alone. In giving a voice to her own fears, insecurities and anxieties, she’s also given a voice to countless others. Billie spends the set constantly, almost being drowned out by the choir of the room who live her words but she never does battle. They’re all in this together.
There’s a moment of ‘Watch /&burn’ where she leans so far forward, she almost topples into the crowd and during ‘You Should See Me In A Crown’ she’s coroneted by the audience, a plastic crown declaring her our highness of hope. Every moment of tonight is backed by full-bodied belief and soulful want. It’s an amazing thing to watch. It’s even better to be a part of it.
Words: Ali Shutler