When an artist runs on stage to The Office theme song, you know you’re in for a rarity. When the artist is Billie Eilish, electropop’s best kept 15-year-old secret, you’re in for more than that.
You read that right. At 15, Eilish is writing indie pop anthems far beyond her years. Her dreamy first release, “Ocean Eyes”, went viral on SoundCloud last year and shot the LA-based singer out of relative obscurity. Judging by the sold out status of her Drake Hotel show Saturday night, word has traveled north.
Following the success of “Ocean Eyes” came the release of her debut EP don’t smile at me. The collective is a stand-alone pop treasure, worthy of comparison to Lana Del Rey’s Born to Die or Robyn’s Body Talk, likely both monumental influences for Eilish.
Her Drake Hotel set featured every song as heard on her EP. From “COPYCAT” – a sneaky smack- back number with an infectious bass beat – to “bellyache” – a melodic triumph layered over a KT Tunstall-inspired acoustic guitar – Eilish delivered every track with poignancy and an almost omniscient stage presence. As a trained dancer, every beat saw a physical reaction in Eilish, highlighted by the choreographed dips and sways with her stage mate during “myboy.” With or without the recent bout of laryngitis, her voice was cracking and coy, exuding more soul than most twice her age.
For those concerned, the teenager wasn’t without her family. While Eilish took center, dad ran the strobe-like lighting and big brother Finneas O’Connell acted as a one-man band, dropping vocals and guitar riffs while running the drum pad and backing tracks. At one point he even stole the spotlight, crooning a stripped down version of his song “I’m in Love Without You” to a room of high pitched approval. O’Connell co-wrote and produced don’t smile at me with his sister in a tiny bedroom studio. Oh, and his past acting credits on Glee and Modern Family might have made him recognizable to the young crowd. A modern family, indeed.
The room was responsive to say the least. “My thoughts are pretty sad, but who’s aren’t, right?” Eilish asked rhetorically of her adoring audience. They agreed relentlessly, thumbs in place to record every moment as it happened.
For this crowd, Eilish was both a peer and a pilot. From her oversized, androgynous fashion to her distinctively perpetual pout, Eilish is speaking for a generation that we have yet to hear from. But what we call uncharted territory, she calls home. If the music weren’t enough, that alone is a reason to keep your eye on Billie Eilish.