entertainment

Billie Eilish Glastonbury review: ‘Youngest-ever headliner makes history with captivating set'

Still just 20, Eilish commanded one of the world's biggest stages like a seasoned veteran.

2022-06-25

Words: Will Stroude; Image: Alamy

When Glastonbury Festival was last held in 2019, Billie Eilish’s year-defining debut album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? was a mere three months old. The intervening three years have seen Eilish – still just 20 – scoop seven Grammys, an Oscar, and tighten her already firm grip on the Gen Z cultural zeitgeist and music industry at large. 

It was no surprise then that before Eilish sprang onto the Pyramid Stage on Friday night as Glastonbury’s youngest-ever headliner, the buzz running through the assembled crowd at Worthy Farm was palpable. Eilish has played to adoring fans across the UK on her Happier Than Ever tour in recent weeks, but wasted no time winning over a diverse and cross-generational crowd of music lovers with a bombastic set that crushed any lingering doubts about the former teen phenom’s longevity.

The swagger with which Eilish commands a crowd belies her introspective, cerebral lyrics and public persona: ‘Bury a Friend’ provided an explosive opener to a set that saw Eilish scuttle and stomp around the stage with both an intensity and unexpected playfulness that immediately confirmed her status as one of the world’s most captivating stars. Hits like ‘Therefore I Am’ and ‘bad guy’ offered crowd-pleasing sing-along moments while the celestial vocal delivery of early breakthrough ballads like ‘ocean eyes’ and ‘when the party’s over’ had the audience enraptured.

Flanked by brother Finneas, Eilish provided 90-minutes of collective catharsis as she instructed Glastonbury to “have a f**king tantrum”. On the day the US Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade and removed American women’s constitutional right to abortion, it seemed fitting for an American woman whose music speaks so much to a disaffected generation to take centre stage. “Today is a really dark day for women in the US,” Eilish declared. “And I’m just gonna say that because I can’t bear to think about it.”

With glitchy, apocalyptic visuals including giant arachnids providing an arresting backdrop to a set of screeching industrial pop, Eilish didn’t so much cast a spell as weave a web over Glastonbury. “I support you and everything that makes you who you are,” she told the crowd before closing with an anthemic rendition of 'Happier Than Ever'. “I hope you feel free to be yourself.” The world might be in flames, but if Eilish can’t fix it herself, she’s sure going to provide one hell of a soundtrack.

Billie Eilish's Glastonbury setlist: 

bury a friend
I Didn't Change My Number
NDA
Therefore I Am
my strange addiction
idontwannabeyouanymore / lovely
you should see me in a crown
Billie Bossa Nova
GOLDWING
Oxytocin
ilomilo
Your Power
bellyache / ocean eyes
Getting Older
Lost Cause
when the party's over
all the good girls go to hell
everything i wanted
bad guy
Happier Than Ever

Billie Eilish's Glastonbury performance is available to watch on BBC iPlayer in the UK now.