The last time Coachella happened, in 2019, Billie Eilish had just released her historic debut album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? — and celebrated with her first-ever Coachella performance. Everyone showed up for that early evening slot on the Outdoor stage — from Zane Lowe and James Corden to Katy Perry and Orlando Bloom.
Fast forward to day two of Coachella 2022 (Saturday, April 16) and Eilish made her return to the desert — only this time she was there to headline, becoming the youngest artist to do so in Coachella’s history. For the occasion, the superstar took a break from her current arena trek in support of her second album, last year’s Happier Than Ever. While the staging and much of the setlist remained the same, one surprise in particular proved this show was far from just another tour stop.
Eilish first appeared at the end of the stage’s runway in a comically oversized coat, which she quickly shook off with a small laugh. She then subtly nodded to the last time she dazzled the desert by performing “Bury a Friend,” letting the final line (and debut album title) ring out across the field with a victorious undertone – as if in the years since releasing the album Eilish finally found the answer to the question she once posed.
If you’re Eilish, when you’re asleep your dreams take you to new heights — and in the case of Coachella, that can be said literally. At one point, Eilish hovered over the crowd in a mobile crane, wanting to make sure there was, essentially, no bad “seat” in the “house.” Throughout the set, she wove in and out of hits off her two albums with the skill set of a seasoned seamstress (There were two omissions, however: the Bond theme “No Time To Die” she and Finneas just won their first Oscar for and the acclaimed 4*Town hit “Nobody Like You,” which she and her brother wrote for the Disney/Pixar film Turning Red). And while Eilish flaunted her flexibility on harder-hitting songs (at one point she folded into an especially impressive backbend), she shone brightest during the sets more tender moments, like “”Idontwannabeyouanymore,” “when the party’s over” and “Your Power,” which she and FINNEAS performed acoustically side by side on stools.
It appeared, however, that on Coachella’s main stage Eilish herself was still learning just how much power she has — and how to best channel it into a performance of this size. For those who have seen Eilish on tour this year, her Coachella set may have felt like a repeat (minus the few audio issues and field lights frequently turning on). Yet, she did make sure to include one thing no one had yet seen from her so far: A live duet with Damon Albarn.
Toward the end of her set, the superstar treated fans to a guest performance from the Blur, Gorillaz and The Good, the Bad and the Queen frontman — consider it her own “when Harry met Shania” moment (from Styles’ day one headlining set). Albarn sauntered on stage to lend vocals to “Getting Older,” off Happier Than Ever before ripping into the Gorillaz’ hit “Feel Good Inc.,” for which De La Soul’s Posdnuos also joined and injected the last bit of Eilish’s set with a high dose of energy. “This is the craziest shit I’ve ever experienced,” said Eilish. “[Damon] changed my life in a lot of ways, and changed my view of what music and art and creation could be.” And Albarn wasn’t the set’s only surprise, as Eilish had previously welcomed Khalid on stage to perform their collaboration “Lovely,” returning the favor from when he welcomed her to his main stage set in 2019.
Eilish did her part to keep the energy flowing once Albarn left, jumping right into an impressive hat trick of “Everything I Wanted” and “Bad Guy” before ending, of course, with “Happier Than Ever.” As the second, more rock-leaning half of the song picked up, so too did the roaring winds — as if Eilish’s epic screams on the song were enough to generate such gusts.
For the artist who started her set confessing “I should not be headlining this shit, but I’m so fucking grateful to be here,” she sure managed to prove herself wrong. But by the set’s end, she still seemed to need convincing. “I’m sorry I’m not Beyoncé,” Eilish apologized through a grin before taking a bow with her brother and drummer Andrew Marshall.
Fortunately for her fans, she’s Billie Eilish.