Billie Eilish live at Glastonbury: a great set, but perhaps not headline-worthy

Glastonbury’s youngest ever headliner makes history, but her show doesn’t always rise to the occasion.

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In the closing moments of Billie Eilish’s Glastonbury show, a cacophony of golden fireworks spew up into the night as ‘Happier Than Ever’ erupts into its epic headbanging portion. As bright white lights strobe from the Pyramid, Eilish – the youngest ever artist to headline this famous stage – throws her head back and roars. As the rockets continue to soar, and the guitars fuzz out into a frantic fuzz of distortion, it feels like a properly triumphant moment for the left-field pop artist. 

While many artists react to the sheer scale of this field in amazement, wiping away tears and staring in stunned silence, Eilish has an easy confidence as she strolls across the length of the stage surveying the view:  “Jesus fuck!” she exclaims, “there are so many of you”. Instead, she saves her emotion for an acoustic rendition of ‘Your Power’, performed alongside her brother and producer FINNEAS. Quietly raging against abuses of power (“How dare you? And how could you?”) Eilish looks visibly filled with anger. Following the overturning of Roe Vs. Wade in the US – a Supreme court ruling which protected abortion rights as part of the American constitution – an estimated 36 million women will lose access to abortion in their home states and now face a dark, deeply troubling future where decisions about their own bodies have been torn away from them. As Eilish headlines tonight, abortion clinics in certain states are already closing their doors as she speaks, and cancelling all appointments. “Today is a really dark day for women in the US, and I’m just going to say that…” she says, “because I can’t really bear to think about it”. She joins the likes of IDLES and Phoebe Bridgers in highlighting the devastating backwards step for women’s reproductive rights, and looking on, you rage with her. It’s a heavy moment, handled with aplomb.

Save for a guest appearance from FINNEAS, Eilish’s set is a completely solo affair, and suffers for it slightly. While we can forgive her for not inviting along Harry Styles for the day (a rumour that has been doing the rounds all festival) the show might’ve felt more dynamic punctuated with a surprise star – a moment along the lines of her curveball duet with Hayley Williams at Coachella, say. Though her risky setlist is heavy on ballads, it still succeeds in holding the crowd rapt – but not every song is received with the fervour you’d expect at one of her own solo concerts. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – half of the joy of festivals is walking into a tent and hunting down your new favourite artist – but it may partly explain the lack of intensity.

As enigmatic a performer as Eilish is, writhing on the floor for the stuttering sleaze of ‘Oxytocin’ and urging the entire field to have an incredibly cathartic tantrum during ‘You Should See Me In A Crown’ the show is a visual triumph, but sometimes lacks the certain sense of brilliant over-the-top-ness that accompanies some of Glastonbury’s most memorable milestone headliners. Broadly similar to her ‘Happier Than Ever’ tour – both in setlist and aesthetics – it’s a visually stunning show, but doesn’t rise to the occasion and grab its top-of-the-bill status by the collar.

Billie Eilish played:

bury a friend

I Didn’t Change My Number

NDA

Therefore I Am

my strange addiction

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idontwannabeyouanymore

Lovely (Billie Eilish & Khalid cover)

you should see me in a crown

Billie Bossa Nova

GOLDWING

Oxytocin

ilomilo

Your Power (ft FINNEAS)

bellyache

ocean eyes

Getting Older

Lost Cause

when the party’s over

all the good girls go to hell

everything i wanted

bad guy

Happier Than Ever

READ MORE: The BIG Glastonbury 2022 – down on the farm with The Forty-Five

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Billie Eilish live at Glastonbury