At the start of her Tuesday night concert at St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center, zoom superstar Billie Eilish announced that she had two rules for the crowd of around 15,000.
First of all, she says, you are not allowed to judge anyone. Second: “F—— have fun!”
The 20-year-old’s rise to global fame has been remarkable to watch. Educated at home by free-spirited and artistic parents, Eilish and her brother Finneas O’Connell were encouraged to follow their artistic muse as teenagers and both turned to music. When Eilish was 13, she started writing songs with her brother and recording them at their parents’ house.
The duo’s songs intertwine with hip-hop, electropop, gothic and a number of other less conventional styles. The ethereal murmur of an Eilish voice, which sometimes turns into an angry growl, is more about texture and mood than technical skill. (Not to say she can’t sing, just that she wouldn’t go overboard with, say, “American Idol.”)
Much like Taylor Swift did early in her career, Eilish has an incredible ability to connect directly with young fans, in part because they’re her peers. She speaks their language.
It turns out that Eilish speaks a lot of languages. She enjoyed worldwide success, winning seven Grammys and becoming the youngest artist to write a James Bond theme song, earning her an Oscar nomination.
In early 2020, Eilish embarked on what would become her fifth and biggest tour to date. The pandemic cut the outing short after just three shows. So Eilish and her brother went ahead and made their second album together, “Happier Than Ever.” And the current tour isn’t an updated version of its ill-fated 2020 dates, but rather an all-new show that found time for nearly every song on “Happier Than Ever.”
Early in her career, Eilish dressed in loud, baggy clothes paired with a perpetual frown. She dove into Old Hollywood glam style for “Happier Than Ever,” but the garish, oversized look was back on Tuesday night. The idea is less about fashion and more about giving Eilish the ability to move around more freely.
She moved, jumping up and down on a catwalk that extended from her sparse stage, which projected video in sync with the screens behind her. The only other people on stage were drummer Andrew Marshall and Finneas, who played multiple instruments, but Eilish captured the attention of the entire arena.
Eilish also showed none of the austere darkness that helped make her famous. She smiled and giggled and playfully interacted with the screaming crowd, instructing them to jump and, as noted above, have fun. At times his voice seemed to be buried in the heavy bass mix. Then again, it could actually be the audience drowning her out, as they sang aloud many of the set’s more than two dozen songs.
Huge, almost haunting anthems dominated the evening, from the show opener “Bury a Friend” to “You Should See Me in a Crown” to a mashup of three of his early tracks, “Bellyache”, “Ocean Eyes” and “Bored.” But her quieter moments were far more compelling, like the lush ballad “Halley’s Comet” and “Getting Older,” which she sang in front of screens showing home videos of her as a child.
The loudest song was its absolutely stunning Bond theme song, “No Time to Die,” which manages to sound both dramatically majestic and utterly modern at the same time. The fact that, like the rest of her catalog, Eilish and her brother wrote and recorded it without outside interference suggests that Eilish’s fame will not be fleeting.