If the youngest ever Pyramid Stage headliner felt she had to prove herself, she did it in spades with a thrillingly electric set that cemented her as one of the best performers working today.
Billie Eilish’s headline set was a rollercoaster, tempering industrial highs with tear-inducing moments of quiet. It was a stunningly brilliant show.
The crowd was eerily calm as it awaited Eilish’s first appearance, as though 100,000 people were collectively holding their breath. She emerged onto the stage and barrelled straight into “Bury Your Friends” – from that moment on, her silhouette alone had enough stage presence to carry the show.
Glastonbury’s Pyramid Stage is an enormous set for a solo performer (Eilish was joined by her brother, do-writer and producer Finneas on keyboards, and a drummer) but she made bounding around it and commanding the enormous crowd seem easy.
Her voice was excellent: quiet yet powerful with all the intimacy of a close friend whispering in your ear. She has a way of leaning into the microphone that makes you feel as though she’s singing directly to you. These moments tended to be very still until she’d burst into movement, a bolt of electric energy as she slammed her feet into the stage, screamed into the mic, threw her body into backbends or seduced the audience by slinking down the walkway and dropping to the floor. That her voice can be so restrained even as she sprints the length of the stage is an astonishing thing to witness.
During the emotional “idontwannabeyouanymore” she stood at the microphone bathed in blue light, eyes closed as if she’d retreated to another place, though when the song ended she looked up, grinned and said, “There are so many of you guys, Jesus fuck!” At 20, Eilish has a youthful innocence that carried the jarring moments – like when she checked each section of the crowd was okay, an interruption that went on longer than strictly necessary (everyone was fine).
Eilish took her role as leader of the crowd seriously, leading us through some deep breathing, some nervous system relaxation and a communal howl into the night. Have you truly lived until you’ve spent 30 seconds shaking your body loose as hundreds of thousands of others do the same around you? It was impossible not to grin as widely as the delighted superstar on the stage.
Billie Eilish has always leant into the dark, and her show is no exception: the video monitors flashed with snarling dogs and a giant spider that crept across the stage. During the transcendent “You Should See Me In A Crown” she led the crowd in a scream that went on so long that she ended up conducting it. “Oxytocin”, too, felt as though it could sit easily in a Nine Inch Nails set, marrying the industrial with the emotional and delivering it with hard passion.
The news that the US Supreme Court voted to overturn Roe v Wade and eroding abortion rights weighed heavily on the American performers today. Eilish and Finneas sat together to sing “Your Power” which she introduced by saying, “This song is about power and not to abuse it and today is a really, really dark day in the US. I’m just gonna say that. I can’t bear to think about it in this moment.” It was heavy, but elegantly handled as she allowed the song to speak for her.
But what will really stick in the memory are the moments of sheer joy: the thrill of her breakthrough single “Bad Guy”, the big hugs of “Everything I Wanted”, the sheer pyrotechnic energy and anger of the closer, “Happier Than Ever”. We’re all searching for a Glastonbury “moment”. Not every headliner delivers one. Billie Eilish absolutely did.