Billie Ellish at the PNE Ampitheatre, 6/1/19
A sea of cell phones rose in unison above the crowd to greet Billie Eilish as she stomped her way up a short staircase near the center of the PNE Ampitheatre stage. Eilish stood for a moment with her hands on her hips while the audience cheered gleefully.
Seconds later, the 17-year old pop sensation erupted into dance and the audience followed suit; the sea of cell phones becoming a turbulent, chaotic mass of belonging and joy. Eilish wore a white t-shirt adorned with skulls and a baggy, short-sleeved hoodie with clowns and matching shorts. As she bounded her way around the stage and started singing “Bad Guy,” the crowd sang too.
Earlier in the evening, Eilish’s brother and collaborator, Finneas, received an equally enthusiastic reception when he opened the show. The audience shrieked as he sat down in front of a lone keyboard dressed in almost white, when he played his first chord and, again when he stood up from the keyboard to sing.
Finneas certainly looked the part of seasoned performer as he showcased a sample of his repertoire in a smooth, velvety voice. His movements were so precise that they could have been choreographed and a legion of young women gathered in front of the stage were spellbound. Much like his younger sister, this balladeer seems destined for the spotlight.
Eilish successfully toes the line between absurdity and the hard truth. Her voice is haunting, and she breathes life into some creepy and uncomfortable topics that, in the past, have largely been considered taboo. In a world that is newly obsessed with advocating for positive self-talk, Eilish presents the most vulnerable parts of herself with ferocity.
Early in her set, she raised her arm and declared emphatically: “If you’ve ever absolutely hated yourself, this song is for you!” The cheers that followed nearly drowned out the opening chords of “Idontwanttobeyouanymore.” As Eilish began the song that exposes her insecurities, fans once again sang every word along with her.
The California native is a dynamic entertainer, and she bounced from one side of the stage to the other while delivering every song with passion. She even spent some time in the crowd during “bellyache,” which is arguably her most controversial single to date. She reigned in the energy level with a duet called “I Love You,” in which she and her brother sat on a bed suspended above the stage in a kind of re-creation of the song’s invention.
Following that, Eilish crawled off the bed and dove right into “Ocean Eyes,” the hit that initiated her rise to stardom. She then instructed her fans to turn off their cell phones and experience the next song in the now.
“It won’t ever be like this again”, she explained. “Look me in the fucking eye!”
With that, she sat on a chair and belted out “When the Party’s Over” while the official video, showing her sobbing black tears, played on the big screen.
The suspended bed made a return for the final song of the evening, a dramatic rendition of “Bury a Friend.” Eilish sang the hypnotic tune while the bed carried her higher and higher and tilted further and further forwards. Ghoulish arms reached for her on the screen while red lights drenched the stage.
“When we all fall asleep, where do we go!” She bellowed the final words as though they were a statement instead of a rhetorical question, and hung her head, dramatically. Her fans and their adult chaperones cheered in approval, holding their applause long after Eilish and her bandmates had left the stage.
There is no way to know just where the music world’s newest royal will take her devoted followers next, but it’s clear that this is only the beginning of her reign.