Just as she started her career intimately recording in a bedroom in her parents’ house, Billie Eilish ended her concert Saturday night in Minneapolis singing from atop a bed.
In the case of the sold-out Armory show, though, the bed floated about 30 feet above the heads of 8,000 packed-in fans, all singing along at the top of their lungs.
What a difference a couple of years have made in the life of one teenager. Eilish, 17, is experiencing a whirlwind ride into major pop stardom that started at age 15, when her homemade song “Ocean Eyes” went viral worldwide.
Saturday’s performance felt a bit like a tornado touching down. It’s hard to remember a local concert where the fans went this gaga over a new artist; they follow her every move and sing along to her every word. Many of them arrived hours early so they could press up against the stage, only to be wearily lifted out of the crowd by Armory security staff in exhaustion come showtime. Rapper Denzel Curry’s lively opening set added to the heat.
By the time Eilish asked fans to get low to the ground midconcert during “Listen Before I Go,” most were crammed together too tightly to move at all. Nonetheless, they tried their hardest to crouch or bow down.
At the same time, the 80-minute set also showed the electro-wired Los Angeles singer to be a grounded, surprisingly organic performer whose songs are far from the breezy pop music typical of other teen stars.
Somehow bringing to mind Lorde, Avril Lavigne, James Blake and Trent Reznor musically, Eilish wasn’t so dynamic visually. She took the stage looking like your average teen headed to the Warped Tour in an oversized black T-shirt, baggy black shorts, black boots and — yep — black socks, all of which matched her newly dyed hair.
The statement seemed to be she would not be making any statements with her wardrobe; her music would do that just fine, thank you.
“I’m that bad type,” she sang in “Bad Guy” to open her set. “Make your mama sad type / Make your girlfriend mad tight / Might seduce your dad type.”
With a tough, detached but smart-alecky songwriting style that also appeals to the Gen-X parents of her Gen-Z fans, “Bad Guy” was the first of several tunes with blunt lyrics that might make you cringe, laugh or think hard.
All of which is pretty typical behavior of a 17-year-old, isn’t it?
Her coy, cocky sense of humor was especially prevalent in the throbbing third song, “You Should See Me in a Crown,” when she sang, “I’m gonna run this nothing town” — just another teen’s dream of being the center of the world, but in her case it proved somewhat prophetic.
Later on, performing the ironically jazzy “All the Good Girls Go to Hell” under a bank of fiery-red lights, she sang in a whispery, devil-on-your-shoulder tone, “Even God has her enemies.”
Eilish didn’t keep up her cool bad-girl veneer the whole show. She complained about shin splints and thanked fans with aw-shucks humility between songs.
She also unveiled a dramatic vulnerability in “Idontwannabeyouanymore,” which was stripped to a piano ballad accompanied by her brother/co-writer Finneas. (Drummer Andrew Marshall was her only other bandmate; meaning a decent amount of the music was prerecorded.)
Later, Eilish turned downright romantic and bared a softly serene singing voice in both “Wish You Were Gay” and “Ocean Eyes.”
The latter hit was delivered under a deep-blue hue near the show’s end, just before she climbed aboard the levitating bed and danced around on it for the finale “Bury a Friend” as if living out the ultimate teen fantasy — one that, as Saturday’s show made abundantly clear, is sure to live on well into her adult life.