by Dan Radin
When an icon arrives, there’s no mistaking the event.
And there Billie Eilish stood: upstage at the top of her riser, sunglasses on, in her baggy athletic wear, nuclear green hair glowing, rotating her head laterally to take in the screaming TV audience. She knew they’d be watching this episode of Austin City Limits on repeat. Eilish looked at the camera and smiled.
The legendary Moody Theater roared all evening with palpable admiration for the 17-year old pop star. Outstretched arms and shouts of “I LOVE YOU BILLIE” rang perpetually while Eilish danced and sang her way through an hour of her dark pop.
Eilish played right into the madness. Starting with “bad guy,” she arm pumped and jumped across every inch of the stage, singing to and addressing each seat in the theater. It was the kind of enthusiasm that likely gifted Eilish the medical boot she wore on her right leg through her set. It didn’t hamper her spirit in the slightest.
Eilish’s sense of self shone as brightly as her neon-green hair. Commenting on playing “Copycat”: “I know a lot of people don’t like that song. But I like it. So I’m gonna play it.” Her movements, open and confident, helped deliver every vocal line with sincere conviction. Atop a stool at the front of the stage, Eilish sang her piano ballads beautifully.
Behind her stage persona, the singer made a point to be transparent in her feelings with the audience. “I was skeptical at first. I was worried you wouldn’t like me,” Eilish confessed. The responding shrieks announced support otherwise. Eilish’s maturity for her age was impressive, notably encouragement to “live in the moment” and enjoy life past a superficial level. Adults and kids alike in the audience sported Eilish t-shirts. Inevitably, Eilish strikes a universally-aspired confidence, while being supremely relatable in her humanity.
Eilish appeared to be surrounded (on-stage and otherwise) by her support system, in the form of drummer Andrew Marshall, and “my big brother Finneas.” Also Eilish’s producer, Finneas swapped smoothly between guitar/bass/piano, while receiving hearty cheers from the crowd. The two-man backing band played tightly to the click and allowed Eilish to flourish as the frontwoman.
At the end of closer “Bury a Friend,” Eilish dropped into her sinister backbend. She then purposefully disappeared into a sea of clambering fans in the front row for “Hugs.” Past being a remarkable musician, Eilish is just as admirable for her commitment to being a North Star for her peers, and welcoming vulnerability. In the face of her stardom, Eilish wants to remind us she’s just like everyone else.