You’ve probably never seen anyone else like her — a singer and songwriter who connects so directly with fans not only through her oh-I-identify-with-that lyrics but also through her personal magnetism, too.
She’s absolutely her own person, not a pop star built through a committee of producers, teams of outside songwriters and an army of stylists.
Eilish made it apparent on Wednesday at CHI Health Center Omaha, where a veritable army of her fans showed up to sing, shout and screech every word to songs such as bad guy, Happier Than Ever, Lovely and Bored.
(Let’s just say there will be a lot of sore voices around town on Thursday.)
This was Billie’s show.
There were no dancers. No huge band. No big distractions.
Just her. Just her music.
Oh, and more than 15,000 delirious fans, many screaming every word to Eilish’s expansive 28-song, 100-minute set.
The sold-out arena was filled with Eilish’s angsty, breathy music, the heat of thousands of writhing fans and their voluminous shouts, too.
It was something else to witness.
Eilish owned the stage, dancing and running down a massive stage that ran nearly the length of the arena. Every time she came near a new section of the arena, fans there would swell with squeals.
It’s no wonder she has so many Grammy Awards. (Or that she’s nominated for a multitude more — and performing — at this year’s ceremony, too.)
Billie Eilish is a far cry from the pop stars of my teenage years.
They were all teen-pop sex appeal, marketed not so much as great singers creating amazing music but as something sexy. It didn’t help that their songs were typically filled with banal lyrics written by committees of unknown songwriters.
Not Billie. No.
She writes all of her songs alongside her brother/producer Finneas.
They’re angsty. They’re emotional. They’re wordy and acerbic. They’re oh so real, sounding exactly like how a teenager and young woman actually experiences life.
No surprise that so many identify with her songs and their lyrics.
Eilish’s personality is also incredibly inviting, the sort of celebrity with whom you’d like to become dear friends. She goofed off on stage, dancing like you might in a friend’s living room when a favorite song comes on. Her look is more like your quirky friend from down the street with the dyed hair and black fingernails and less like a perfectly made-up, marketed and focus group-tested pop star.
Eilish showed just how different she was on Wednesday as soon as she was launched from beneath the stage, landing on the platform in a baggy pink sweatshirt, shorts, kneepads and her black hair done up in bunches.
She performed with only a drummer and her brother, Finneas, who sang backing vocals, trigger samples and played drums, guitar, bass and keyboards.
At times, her whispered and breathy vocals were hard to catch and she occasionally let the backing track (and the screaming audience, too) pick up the slack and carry songs for her. Her best efforts were songs such as the James Bond theme No Time To Die, which saw her using her voice in big and small ways, and the emotionally complicated and strongly worded Male Fantasy, which Eilish performed solo with an acoustic guitar.
As excited as her fans were to see Eilish, she may have been more excited to see the audience.
“It’s so good to see you guys. How’s your day?” she said. “There’s one rule for the night: Have. Fun. It’s not cool to not have fun. Move your body. It doesn’t matter tonight. Just do what you feel like doing.”
Throughout the night, Eilish continually spoke to the audience and checked on fans. It was hot in the arena, and the crowd pressed close to the stage. A few times, crowd managers and paramedics had to check on fans having a hard time, and Eilish was concerned. She even ordered cases of water to be brought out and handed to whomever needed a drink.
Eilish absolutely burned through her set, performing nearly every song she’s ever released in less than two hours. Some songs were cut short, featuring only the performance of a verse and a chorus, but the depth of her catalog made the ticket well worth it.
I couldn’t tell who had more fun: Eilish or her fans.
“I love you guys so much. Thank you for coming tonight,” she said to even more shouts and screams. “Thank you for coming and showing love. Thank you for the parents and cousins and siblings for coming along. I love you guys so much.”
Kevin is the host of Pops and Hisses, a music podcast featuring artist interviews with bands you love and opinions backed by decades as an award-winning music critic, podcaster, writer and photographer. Follow Kevin on Instagram, TikTok and Twitter.