SXSW 2019: Billie Eilish Returns to Austin As a Headliner With Brand New Material

Jack Plunkett/Invision/AP
Billie Eilish performs at the Uber Eats House during the South by Southwest Music Festival on March 16, 2019 in Austin, Texas. 

Billie Eilish’s lone South By Southwest performance this year was a back to the future moment for the 17-year-old singer.

Both Eilish and her brother and collaborator Finneas O’Connell, who also opened the Saturday night session at the Uber Eats club, made note of the fact that they were in Austin two years ago. In 2017, they played on the patio of the same venue (the former La Zona Rosa) and also caught Vince Staples on the main stage inside.  And of course she played “&Burn,” the track that Staples features on from Eilish’s 2017 EP Don’t Smile at Me, with his voice on pre-recorded track.

Now it’s Eilish’s turn as a headliner, however, and the anticipation for the March 29 release of her first full album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? was palpable throughout the club, packed so tightly that it was hard to get a good look at the diminutive Eilish from anywhere behind the first handful of rows.    

It was also a crowd perfectly in tune with Eilish’s band of dreamscape pop. 50 minutes of an ethereal and unrelentingly languid flow enveloped the O’Connells’ delicate melodies, only occasionally interrupted by some thick, room-shaking bass throbs and the more spirited choruses of “Bury a Friend” and “Copycat.”   

    

Eilish previewed four songs from When We Fall Asleep…: “You Should See Me in a Crown,” “When The Party’s Over" and “Wish You Were Gay” in addition to “Bury a Friend." All 14 of the show’s songs were accompanied by elaborate videos on a rear-screen stage.    

The clip for “Lovely,” featuring Khalid, was screened as his feature was heard on track just before “When I Was Older,” Eilish’s contribution to Music Inspired by the Movie Roma. Her EP hits, “Ocean Eyes” and “Bellyache,” made their expected splash, but so did deeper cuts such as “Bitches Broken Hearts,” “idontwannabeyouanymore” and “Bellyache.”

Eilish also had some fun playing on the crowd’s age. Noting that it was a 21-and-older show, she reveled in her youth and teased that, “I know you guys are over 21, but you still know how to jump, right? Prove to me that you’re not old!” Most obliged, and Eilish walked off the stage Saturday with proof that her young career is coming strong off the launch pad.   

Festivals 2019