Live Report: Billie Eilish – Electric Ballroom, London

A stunning intimate affair...

In the four years since her chart-topping debut record, Billie Eilish has become an artist whose reputation truly precedes her. While most Americans her age are taking their first legal sip of beer, Billie Eilish is preparing to conquer her next milestone; ticking off a Glastonbury headline last year, and having just closed out Reading & Leeds Festival with her magnificent set on Sunday, Eilish’s swaggering alt-pop reign is seemingly unstoppable. 

When considering Eilish’s feverish rise to acclaim, it’s near impossible to recall a time when her name wasn’t stamped in bold at the very top of a festival poster – and that’s exactly why tonight is such a bewildering treat. After gracing Reading’s main stage on Sunday to a crowd of over 100,000, Eilish dropped a bombshell on fans – an intimate gig at Camden’s Electric Ballroom in just two days. 

Diehard fans are camped out long before doors are set to open, desperate to catch an up close and personal glimpse at the artist who has so quickly skyrocketed beyond such small venues. Having performed her first ever live show in the UK at the 200 capacity Courtyard in 2017, the evening is set to strip back to Eilish’s early days – as well as serving as a love letter to the constant support the UK has shown Eilish in her time. 

As doors open and fans finally pile in, there’s a giddy ferality in the air. Everywhere you look, a dyed head of hair is excitedly bouncing around. Fans cry at the mere thought of the evening that is to come, overwhelmed at the prospect of Eilish knocking out any deep cuts. 

By the time Eilish finally does come to the stage, the floodgates are opened. Opener ‘bury a friend’ immediately rouses the room into movement, floor shaking as young fans bounce along to the thumper of a track. It’s near impossible to hear Eilish over crowd, the sheer volume overwhelming and a true sign of just how special tonight is for so many people.

One thing that is also immediate, however, is the soft glow of phones. While the venue is intimate, you can’t help but struggle to see Eilish in action – you’re lucky to catch a glimpse of her strutting back and forth on-stage through the forest arms desperately attempting to snap a photo of the star. When a track starts, the measure of how popular it is amongst the fans can be directly correlated with the immediacy of the phones sprouting up.

At times, you can’t help but feel it is a shame. Eilish is a brilliant performer, and the evening at times feels limited by those favouring a steady shot over dancing the night away. A show is symbiotic – an artist needs a crowd to feed off of just as much as a crowd needs to revel in the performance. ‘Therefore I Am’ in particular feels bittersweet; the track is one that highlights Eilish’s versatility, the swagger rampant in her distinctive vocals, yet phones seemed to be the focus. 

Eilish stops the song twice due to feeling anxious, noting that “it’s been five years since [she’s] done a show like this…” and you can feel the nerves radiating off of her. The heightened energy of a small room, being so much closer to fans, has her on edge – and you can’t help but think less phones oggling up at her would ease the mental stress. 

For older track ‘you should see me in a crown’ Eilish also reminisces “remember where there were moshpits at my shows back in the day… I miss it a lot…”, yet the vast majority of the room again would prefer to get that steady shot. It does make you wonder how strong and chaotic a no phone show might be for Eilish – she undeniably has pit-worthy anthems, and it would be brilliant to allow those to thrive once more. 

Despite the crowd’s shortcomings, Eilish’s blazing energy and girl-next-door humility remains triumphant. Fans delight in the humanity of Eilish in the smaller room, laughing as she jumps down and feeds Taki crisps to people at the barrier or acts like a “babysitter” checking in on everyone. And her personality only amplifies her talent – from thick, woozy tracks like ‘xanny’ to the tear-jerking existentialism of ‘What Was I Made For?’, Eilish consistently delivers gorgeous vocals with an unshakable charm.

The evening also has a slew of little treats, from a snappy mash-up of old EP tracks to, to a Labrinth cover with Labrinth himself, to the remarkable boygenius rocking out on stage for ‘when the party’s over’ (after throwback track ‘wish you were gay’, might we note).

As the night draws to a close, firing through the confetti-spattered might of ‘bad guy’ into the closing track, Eilish undoubtedly looks ‘Happier Than Ever’. There’s a glint in her eye as she performs the final tune, looking around and soaking in the energy. As she notes that she’d love to go on a small venue tour sometime in the future, you can tell that moments like this mean just as much as the massive headline sets she has grown so used to. And the fans definitely feel the same. 

Words: Emily Swingle

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