Billie Eilish | photo by Isaiah Spicer for WXPN | iospicer.com
Billie Eilish brings the unexpected to Union Transfer
With nearly every single tour date sold out, 16-year-old Billie Eilish has proven that she has a huge and devoted fan base all around the world, and especially so in Philadelphia. As I entered Union Transfer, I was struck by an overwhelmingly young crowd wandering the venue. A majority of them were females that definitely fell in between the categories of tween and teen. I took a spot up-top in the 21+ section, which was populated by a majority of parent chaperones, who were 100% dragged to the show by their kids.
Her older brother (and opening act) Finneas O’Connell showcased his instrumental diversity as he swapped back and forth from the piano to the guitar. He performed an array of such touching songs that the audience fell head over heels for him. Finnease’s voice was gentle, yet powerful throughout his performance. His track “Break My Heart Again” got the crowd into their feels and then gave us a little footwork during his most recent single “Let’s Fall In Love for the Night.” The show flipped a switch when Atlanta rapper Childish Major hopped onto the stage. Major performed a couple of tracks from his 2017 album WOO$AH including the track “NoEyeInTeam,” which had the room going wild. His infectious energy got the crowd warmed up and the morale at a high.
After Major’s set, the audience grew increasingly antsy by the minute as they chanted “Billie” about three separate times, which appeared to persuade Eilish to emerge from the shadows a little ahead of schedule. As the stage fogged up, you heard the deafening screams of every person in the pitch black room. A blinding light show began with streaks of blue, white, and purple beams circling the venue, then came to an immediate halt and changed to an eerie red as the introduction to the notorious FX series American Horror Story playing in the background. A white beam shot out from the stage, and behind it was Eilish, back towards the audience and sporting a thick silver chain around her neck, as well as a “Destroy Your Local Casino” hoodie (take that, Sugarhouse).
You could hear the song “My Boy” from her don’t smile at me album simmer in the background as over excited fans screamed her name. The young starlet truly surpassed my expectations within less than a minute. Often, artists’ live sets don’t compare to their recorded music, but Eilish was another story. She proved that when she serenaded us with her track “Lovely”, which features Khalid. Her voice was even more powerful in person as she sung multiple heartfelt ballads like “party favor,” where she played her neon yellow ukulele. She even added a little humor into the mix when she made some saucy comments at part of the song where she says “you just want / what you can’t have” and followed with “bitch, me!”
Throughout the show, her transitions from song to song were incredible. The mood of the segue tracks had no rhyme or reason to why they were used. One of the tracks played was a remix of the Nintendo Wii theme song, which led the band into “bitches broken hearts,” a song with soft and calming delicacy. What really shocked me was how rowdy Eilish got on stage. Her dance moves were quick and sharp as she mimicked the beat to each of her tracks. She would be nonstop thrashing around on the stage the whole performance, giving the audience a reason to get rowdy. The young starlet’s music is soft and calm, but her performance showcased another side of her that is somewhat dark. You especially saw that side when she performed “you should see me in a crown,” where it felt like every single person in the crowd was rioting.
Eilish ended her main set with two of her fan favorites “Hostage,” and “Bellyache.” After an absurd amount of loud cheering, she returned to the chaotic room with “Ocean Eyes” and “COPYCAT.” The room got insanely loud from the screaming fans as they shouted along. Eilish’s performance was unexpected, to say the least. Her unique personality, style, and talents are truly something to be amazed by, especially at her age; we can’t wait to see what she does next.