In concert, Billie Eilish shows she’s ready for her moment
A few years ago, Billie Eilish and her brother Finneas uploaded “Ocean Eyes” to the streaming platform SoundCloud so Billie, then 13, could use the song, which her brother produced, in her dance class. The track was dreamy and pensive, recalling the so-sad-today pop that’s been a hit on streaming platforms, with Eilish’s voice evoking beyond-her-years longing. It quickly vaulted from being an under-the-radar smash to a bona fide pop hit, and Eilish went on to release a series of increasingly haunted, increasingly strange yet potent singles, full of sidelong hooks and headphone-ready sonic detail, that racked up a billion plays before she even released a debut full-length.
When that album, “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” came out in March, it established the now-17-year-old as a, if not the, new teenpop supernova, moving 313,000 units and selling 170,000 albums in a moment where, as her ascent shows, streaming reigns supreme. It was also an excellent statement of purpose, collecting already-released songs and new recordings that balanced 21st-century gloom with a winking giddiness — just listen to the impish “duh” she exclaims after declaring herself a “bad guy’ on the single of the same name, or the way clips from the American adaptation of “The Office” are mixed into the icy synthpop of “My Strange Addiction.”
On Friday night, Eilish showed how she blends those two sides during an energetic, hour-and-change set that was preceded by the largely young, largely female audience chanting her name and followed by young audience members chatting excitedly with their parents about what had just transpired. In between, Eilish ran through most of her discography with gusto and showmanship, backed by her brother on an assortment of instruments (he laid down guitar and bass solos at opportune moments), a drummer, and video screens that made the nightmare world she lays out and alludes to in her music visible.
On record, songs like “Bad Guy” and “Bury A Friend” are rife with sonic imagery — spooky synths on the former, the whirr of a dentist’s drill on the latter — that use Eilish’s quivering, yet resolute voice as their counterpoint. The larger environment at Rockland Trust Bank Pavilion forced the songs to be super-sized. But the reworkings not only worked, they showed the strength of Billie and Finneas’s songwriting; “All the Good Girls Go to Hell” was transformed into menacing robo-funk, while “Listen Before I Go,” which the siblings performed on a bed (“the way we wrote it”) was a pristine guitar-and-vocal ballad. “Bury a Friend,” which closed the show, was flipped into a glitter-rock stomp that showed where Eilish could take her singular pop vision next — although as she’s shown during her rapid rise, she can probably take any left turn and find treasure.
With Denzel Curry
At Rockland Trust Bank Pavilion, Friday