Few artists have hit the superstar stratosphere as fast as Billie Eilish. The 17-year-old L.A. native’s 2019 debut album When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? debuted at the top of the Billboard charts, and has thus far spawned five top 10 singles, including the #1 “Bad Guy,” making her officially the first artist born this millennium to achieve both a No. 1 album and single. With a packed house primed and ready, we were thrilled to welcome this young artist for her ACL debut.
The show began with a darkened stage, atmospheric electronics and cries of “We love you, Billie” from the audience. Multi-instrumentalist (and her brother and primary collaborator) Finneas and drummer Andrew took the stage first, before Eilish herself sauntered onstage as the electronic pulse of her dark-pop smash “Bad Guy” began. The audience sang the lyrics louder than she did as she bounced around the stage in a chartreuse Rob Zombie shirt. “My Strange Addiction” followed, with Eilish directing the enthusiastic call and response. Though keeping to her minimalist sound, “You Should See Me in a Crown” added a harder pound to the rhythm, giving both star and crowd a reason to jump. “Scream as loud as you possibly can!” she commanded, and the audience obliged. “Idontwannabeyouanymore” proved she could handle a ballad, before “Copycat” pumped the beat back up. “Everybody go as low as you can go,” Eilish asked, so the audience could explode back up, feeding the energy back to her. The misty “When I Was Older” filled the theater with mystery and magic, belying her post-performance claim that people don’t like the tune (but that she does and will continue playing it anyway). The sprightly, sardonic “Wish You Were Gay” changed the tone in any case.
The dramatic pop song “Xanny” served as a showcase for her lush singing, though the worshipping crowd shadowed nearly every note. The big beats returned for the cheeky “All the Good Girls Go to Hell,” which found brother Finneas joining her at the front of the stage. The shimmering “Ilomilo” followed, leading into the acoustic guitar-driven “Bellyache,” which once again turned into a spirited duet with the crowd. Eilish and company brought the pathos for “Ocean Eyes,” her 2015 breakout single and a fan favorite, judging from the waves. “I have only two more songs to do, and then you guys get to go home,” she said following that triumph, and clearly the audience wasn’t ready to oblige. She introduced her accompaniests and reminded the audience to be in the moment for the next song. Sitting on a stool, Eilish delivered “When the Party’s Over” with absolute conviction matched only by the young women in the front row. Barely a second passed before a glam rock gea introduced the singalong thrum of “Bury a Friend,” ending with a crowd-sung shout of the album title: “When we go to sleep, where do we go?” As a quiet outro played, the teenage megastar hopped offstage to give as many people hugs as she could, before leaving the stage. It was a show unlike any other we’ve presented, and we can’t wait for you to see it when it airs early next year on your local PBS station as part of our Season 45.