Billie Eilish at Osheaga

Billie Eilish singing on stage Billie Eilish . Photo Tim Snow

This. was. the. show.

Some people probably came for Kendrick Lamar or Rüfüs du Sol, but I suspect that most people wanted to see Billie Eilish, if only out of curiosity. And those who came out of curiosity I hope felt themselves converted from skeptics to fans for the young superstar. The massive crowd assured that I struggled to find a space to see a screen comfortably, forget seeing the stage itself for most of the show. Nonetheless, I was glad for every moment I could spend listening to Billie Eilish perform.

stage at a distance
Billie Eilish at Osheaga. Photo Rachel Levine

Eilish is a class act. She creates musical grandeur without the the Las Vegas spectacle of Beyonce, the flashy glam of Harry Styles, or the theatricality of Taylor Swift. Eilish is a talented, cool girl. She embodies the Lolita, the scary chick, the self assured don’t need nobody but myself, the never bored/never boring. And likely she’d be all those things without her stardom, but when she gets on stage and performs with her talented, cool, probably more introverted brother Finneas O’Connell, along with a low-key, probably also cool drummer Andrew Marshall, magic happens.

At Osheaga, Eilish took advantage of a dramatic opening to start things by rising up via a trap door to the stage in her signature oversized clothes, hat, dyed hair in low pigtails, and energy that had her bouncing up and down. She also switched back and forth between the more sultry Eilish and the edgy energetic Billie, and mostly a bit of both. Opening with Bury a Friend, flooded in red light, she immediately claimed the audience and then further invited everyone to “Lose their minds for the night” by jumping high, low, tiny jumps.

When a fan threw a boa on stage, she wrapped herself in it and strut the thrust stage with it. Similarly, she did the same with a pride flag (hard to tell if it was actually a pride flag, as the red lighting removed left the flag a collection of red tones instead except in momentary flashes of white light. Her spontaneous actions, and especially when she began to laugh at the start of when the party’s over were a reminder that performance happens live — and each show is it’s own show.

One highlight was when Eilish joked about the song “big t-shirt Billie,” and Philadelphia rapper Armani White appeared on stage performing an abridged version of Billie Eilish. The two hugged, as Eilish confessed it was the first time they’d ever met.

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Another highlight was the very emotional What Was I Made For. In its Barbie film context, the song is essentially Disney-fied pop, Eilish made it personal. Sitting down on stage, legs crossed, her gaze on the ground, she seemed to get emotional as if contemplating what the words meant to her. She sat as she sang, almost confessionally taking a moment to convey that she spent time wondering about her life’s purpose. It came across as vulnerable and achingly beautiful.

Ok, another highlight. There were many. Sorry. Most people are acutely aware that Finneas is the wind beneath Eilish’s wings as the producer of her songs. Whenever he left his remote post to walk down the stage and play guitar, and especially when the two played together, the crowd went wild with applause.

She closed with her two anthemic hits — bad guy, and then Happier than Ever. The crowd sang along to both, but especially the latter. The irony of the lyrics hits in new ways, perhaps especially Montreal given the impact of wildfires on Quebec and beyond. We should be “happier than ever” but the world is on fire around us, both literally and also in our legislation and our relationships to one another. Eilish reminded people about the climate. “We gotta do better” she said. She also spoke about hugging those closest to you, a reminder of how precious time together can be. But, even more so, both comments highlighted that the kids today are not really all right and Eilish is one of them. All we have is one another and we need that love because the problems the world faces, whether climate change or violence, are overwhelming for everyone.

Set list of show: HERE

Billie Eilish played Osheaga 2023. Details about Osheaga 2024 can be found HERE.

About Rachel Levine

Rachel Levine is the big cheese around here. Contact: Website | More Posts