Billie Eilish proves to be more than just kid stuff at the Hi Hat
Kevin Bronson on
It was billed as “An Evening With Billie Eilish,” and Billie Eilish is 15 years old, so this how the singer-songwriter’s EP release show went on Thursday night at the Hi Hat:
It was like a bunch of teenagers took over an adult’s clubhouse and had a blast. There was candy. There was a poster everybody was invited to sign. There were fresh-faced kids thrashing around to a hip-hop playlist while they anticipated the star’s arrival. The singer’s big brother was there — although not as a chaperone, as the other half of her band. The re-purposed “BILLIARDS” sign at the back of the Highland Park club was re-re-purposed to spell “BILLIE EILISH.” And except for the socializing, it was over in 40 minutes, before 10 o’clock.
There figure to be plenty more evenings like these. Even before her eight-song EP, “dont smile at me,” was released today (via Interscope), Eilish boasted Spotify streams in the tens of millions, and her 11-date October tour is already virtually sold out.
Playing Thursday to a room populated by a lot of friends, she said all the right things and sang all the right ways. Inhabiting her songs, she comports herself far beyond her years, her voice ranging from airy and wafer-thin to rich and dusky, as the material dictates. Bantering with her contemporaries, she’s one of them. She even proved poised acknowledging some important adults in the room.
“And I’d like to thank my label — they let me do what I wanted and didn’t try to control anything,” she said before ending the show with the single that launched her in 2015, “Ocean Eyes.” It’s a heavenly bit of pop longing, but as does the EP, the show revealed her range.
Eilish performed with her brother/co-writer/producer Finneas O’Connell, who just turned 20 and was wearing a shirt that read “Too Young to Go to Jail.” He was mostly in the background, behind a set of keyboards and widgets, occasionally playing acoustic guitar. The music came with heavy backing tracks, and the electronic beats were borderline annoyingly harsh, but Eilish’s vocals mostly prevailed.
Most of the crowd had been tipped off to wear either yellow or red, and before the singer performed the dark hip-pop single “Copycat,” she tried dividing the room into red and yellow sides, encouraging them “to mimic each other.” The sold-out club was too crowded for a migration of bodies, but it was a fun ploy.
With most songs on the EP having been released already as singles, everybody knew the words. But both of the two new songs Eilish played impressed, especially with their lyrical hooks. The coquettish “My Boy” ends with “If you want a good girl / then goodbye.” The singer then called out the lad who’s the subject of the song, apparently in the room. Poor Henry.
Even better was “Party Favor,” a chanson that Eilish begins on ukulele. It’s about breaking up with a boy … via voicemail … on his birthday. Her lyrical punchlines got audible laughs. Like: “Hey, call me back when you get this / when you’ve got a minute / we really need to talk / Wait, you know what? / Maybe just forget it / ’cause by the time you get this / your number might be blocked.”
Like the rest of the evening, all in good fun. Pass the Tootsie Pops.
||| Live: Billie Eilish plays the Constellation Room on Oct. 4 and the Echo on Oct. 5. Both shows are sold out.
|| Previously: “Copycat,” “Six Feet Under,” Ears Wide Open
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