Billie Eilish came home last night, and man, it was a hot one.
The 17-year-old and her striking, spooky live show touched down at The Shrine Auditorium in downtown L.A. on Tuesday (July 10), just a few miles from where she grew up in Highland Park. The first of three sold-out shows in her hometown this week, it marked a full-circle moment for Eilish, who told the crowd that she had seen her first concert, The Neighbourhood, at The Shrine in October 2015.
"I had never been to a show before and I was tiny as hell," she recalled. "It was the most incredible show I'd ever seen. I can't even believe that I'm here now... so it's really special that you're all here."
It's hard to say what's more unbelievable: that Eilish went from a first-time concertgoer to a swaggering headliner in just under four years, or that she was even performing at The Shrine in the first place. She is, after all, one of the most in-demand new artists today, and the first act born in this millennium to score a No. 1 album, thanks to her March debut, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?. She could — and probably should — be filling arenas, but that's precisely what made Tuesday's show feel like a rare, lightning-in-a-bottle moment for the crowd of 6,300, who braved the venue's heat and stuffiness. (Though just barely — security guards distributed cups of water to those squished into the barricades at the front of the stage, and there were a handful of fans carried from the pit after seemingly passing out prior to the start of the show.)
But when Eilish — wearing head-to-toe neon green; fingernails, hair highlights, and KT tape included — bounded onstage for a raucous opening performance of "bad guy," you'd have thought the thousands of fans on the floor had just woken up from a year-long coma. The next 75 minutes whizzed by just as kinetically, as the crowd — teens, parents, Emma Roberts, The Office's Creed Bratton, and all — matched Eilish's oscillating energy. They swayed to "ocean eyes," headbanged to "you should see me in a crown," and obliged every one of Eilish's requests to scream, jump, and crouch, no matter who you were ("Just because you're VIP doesn't mean you can't indulge," she told those in the balcony).
For all of the quiet moments in Eilish's music — all that spine-tingling, pop-ASMR ecstasy achieved through snaps, whispers, and tongue clicks — subtlety is not really her thing. That rings true onstage as well, where the lights and visuals rival those of an arena act, especially for the closing number, "bury a friend." As red lights flashed all around her, Eilish went full-on Exorcist, bending backwards on a tilted, stark-looking bed — like the one featured on her freaky album cover — as it rose and fell from the rafters. Just a few minutes prior, that bed was also the defining set piece for another song, "i love you," with Eilish explaining that she wanted to recreate the scene where she and her brother/producer Finneas wrote it. It was another nostalgic nod to her pre-fame life, as the two of them performed the haunting ballad sitting on the bed while it rose into the air and a full moon appeared behind them.
Eilish has recently squirmed at the thought of being "the new face of pop," but her homecoming show on Tuesday certainly fueled the notion that she's altering the genre in her own dark image. And for all the nostalgia felt inside The Shrine, there were also thrilling glimmers of what she'll be able to do when she lights up those (cool, ventilated) arenas she'll inevitably be touring soon.