Billie Eilish at Coachella 2022: a record-breaking performance from an artist born to headline

April 16: With special guests and countless hits the singer delivers a groundbreaking set

Billie Eilish’s music has a sound indicative of her Los Angeles home town – incandescent, brimming with youthful energy, and still embodying a slightly sinister underbelly. The same can be said for her performances, including her record-breaking return to Coachella tonight (April 16), as the youngest headliner in the festival’s history.

When she first took on the desert festival in 2019, reviews revolved around buzz she’d created as a teen singer, noting with surprise that she’d drawn a huge crowd after having only released one EP and her delightfully disruptive debut, ‘When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go’. What followed, however, was a masterclass in living up to the hype. Multiple Grammys, an Academy Award, and the release of yet another groundbreaking record, last year’s critically acclaimed ‘Happier Than Ever,’ ensued. Now, it’s safe to say no one is questioning whether or not she deserves the festival’s top spot. That is, no one except Billie.

“I should not be headlining this shit,” she jokes towards the start of her 25-song set, looking into the crowd with amazement. The 20-year-old singer appears on the stage amid flashing white lights, red hues, and imagery of snakes, rabid dogs, and skeletal figures decorating the large screens on either side of the stage. Still, Billie’s mood is anything but dark as she playfully launches into her ominous track, ‘Bury A Friend’ as the crowd below her runway-shaped stage screams the words along with her.

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Billie Eilish performs at Coachella 2022
Billie Eilish performs at Coachella 2022 CREDIT: Jenn Five

Finding a connection with the audience seems to be Billie’s main goal of the evening, as she pushes the microphone towards them during ‘Oxytocin’, performs her hit song, ‘Ocean Eyes’ while hovering above them in a crane, or tells them at one point to “imagine there’s no bad in the world, and there’s only good.” Billie continues to share sage wisdom with the crowd from the stage. At one point, after playing ‘Your Power’, joined by her brother Finneas on acoustic guitar, she shouts: “It’s important to remember to not abuse our power and to protect young girls!”

Though her brother and drummer Andrew Marshall are typically the only two who join her on stage, tonight she brings a couple of surprise guests. First, Khalid joins her for a duet of their co-written track ‘Lovely’, accenting each other’s vibrato during a quieter moment of the set.

Then, the biggest surprise of the set occurs when Damon Albarn steps on the stage. “This man changed my life in a lot of ways and changed my complete view of what music could be and what art could be and what creation could be,” she says of the British musician after he joins her in singing, ‘Getting Older’.

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“My first favourite band ever was The Good, the Bad & the Queen when I was six years old,” she adds. “And Blur changed the world, and fucking Gorillaz changed the world and this man is literally a genius and that’s that.” Then, she asks Damon if he’d like to join her for one more song, and to the delight of the crowd, they break into the Gorillaz hit, ‘Feel Good Inc.’ joined by Kelvin Mercer of De La Soul.

After her guests leave the stage, Billie asks, “Where do we go from here?” and the answer based on the last songs that make up the night’s playlist, seems to be “up”.

Billie Eilish performs at Coachella 2022
Billie Eilish performs at Coachella 2022 CREDIT: Jenn Five

Billie runs through ‘When The Party’s Over’, ‘All Good Girls Go To Hell’, ‘Everything I Wanted’, and ‘Bad Guy’ at a pace that drills home just how many undeniable hits she’s already had in such a short career. She then ends the festival’s second night, triumphantly by shouting the words to ‘Happier Than Ever’ as her brother leans into his electric guitar, and the crowd emphatically sings along to every single word.

Setlists with 20-plus songs are typically saved for legacy acts, or at the very least, artists with more than two albums to their name. But luckily for us, Billie doesn’t seem interested in following any well-worn path to success, proving that when we see her in a crown, it’s because she’s earned the right to wear one.

Billie Eilish played:

‘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’
‘Halley’s Comet’
‘Oxytocin’
‘Ilomilo’
‘I Love You’
‘Your Power’
‘Overheated’
‘Bellyache’
‘Ocean Eyes’
‘Getting Older’
‘Feel Good Inc.’
‘When The Party’s Over’
‘All The Good Girls Go To Hell’
‘Everything I Wanted’
‘Bad Guy’
‘Happier Than Ever’

Check back at NME all weekend for more reviews, news, interviews, photos and more from Coachella 2022. 

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