IIt’s not just that Billie Eilish is, as she’s keen to point out, the youngest headliner in Glastonbury history…it’s that she’s the first mainstream pop star – as in the genre from pop star that teenage girls are screaming about – to headline Glastonbury. A few years ago, the announcement of a performer like this occupying the main Friday night slot on the Pyramid stage would likely have caused some controversy. A fool would have started a petition about it. But in 2022, the appearance of Billie Eilish’s name at the top of the bill passed without comment.
Whether this is proof that Glastonbury’s audience is younger, or that Glastonbury is becoming increasingly pop in the artists it delivers, or that Eilish is seen as slightly different from her peers, it’s an interesting question. . Watching her bounce from the industrial electro pop of You Should See Me in a Crown, to the kitsch lounge styles of Billie’s Bossanova, to Beatles-y Getting Older, to Dr Dre All the Good Girls Goto Hell influences, one is struck by the sense that she is certainly more eclectic musically than most of her peers. And if you get the impression that festivals aren’t necessarily her natural habitat – “you’re troupers, with your tents and all that”, she blurts at one point – as soon as she appears, she has quite like being at home.
While many of the artists appearing on the Pyramid stage on Friday seem impressed with the size of the crowd they drew and the vehemence of their response – at one point it seems Sam Fender is so smitten with the moment he might start crying – Eilish looks anything but. There’s something compelling about his performance: everything is appealingly confident. The set is essentially a truncated version of the show she’s been shooting arenas for the past few months, and it comes with staples of the pop arena show, including splitting the audience and making them cheer. in turn, lots of talk about empowerment and self-love, and videos of the child artist playing on the big screen. But it loses nothing in translation in a festival setting. If she asks the audience to squat and jump, they gladly comply. It’s heavy with slow ballads, which is theoretically risky, but she never seems to lose the crowd.
Maybe it’s because Eilish is an extremely engaging performer. What’s more, she seems to be genuinely having fun, belying her sulky goth image and the plethora of songs from her latest album – Happily Ever After – that caused a stir among teenage girls when you’re barely out of your teens. miserable affair. Her enthusiasm is contagious, her greatest hits – Burya Friend, Bad Guy – pack immense bass punch, while the ballad Your Power, introduced with a mention of Roe Vs Wade’s overthrow as “a dark day for women”, has a bewitching and disturbing fragility. As she finishes with the slowly building title track of Happier Than Ever – her furiously angry crescendo given an added layer of theatricality by the amount of pyrotechnics exploding across the stage – her performance doesn’t just feel like a musical shift for Glastonbury, but also a triumph.