Billie Eilish insists she shouldn't headline Coachella, then delivers powerful, polished set

Shad Powers
Palm Springs Desert Sun

INDIO, Calif. – Early in her Saturday night Coachella set, Billie Eilish demurred “I should not be headlining.”

She was clearly underselling the power of her voice and her draw, because she gave a commanding performance, lifting a crowd whose energy had been sapped by a long day battling wind and blowing sand.

The 20-year-old singer stayed true to the setlist she’s been playing at recent shows, with tunes vacillating between haunting and upbeat.

To no one’s surprise, she brought out Khalid to sing their song “Lovely” to the delight of the crowd. It was the second guest appearance of the night for Khalid, who also played with Disclosure.

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Billie Eilish gave a dazzling headlining set at Coachella on Saturday night.

Brother Finneas, who has his own Coachella set on Sunday, joined for a quick acoustic interlude, including "Your Power."

During "Ocean Eyes," Eilish created a unique visual as she was hovering over her burgeoning crowd in a crane-like mechanism after she asked everyone to turn on their cellphone lights. The result was an elevated Eilish above a sea of light.

The rumored collaboration between Eilish and Damon Albarn, former Blur frontman and leader of the Gorillaz, came to fruition as the two joined forces on Eilish's "Getting Older," then sang the Gorillaz song "Feel Good Inc."

The working relationship between Eilish and Albarn, 54, seems to have emanated from an interview with the Los Angeles Times in which Albarn was asked about Taylor Swift's songwriting and said he believed Eilish to be the superior songwriter. (He later apologized to Swift for discrediting her writing.)

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Billie Eilish was carried out above in the crowd and bathed in cellphone light for "Ocean Eyes."

"A really interesting songwriter is Billie Eilish and her brother. I’m more attracted to that than to Taylor Swift. It’s just darker – less endlessly upbeat. Way more minor and odd. I think she’s exceptional,” Albarn said. 

Even before that, Albarn covered Eilish's song "Getting Older" for a project he was working on. 

Two days ago, Eilish put out an Instagram Story showing her wearing a Gorillaz T-shirt, sparking the Coachella conversation.

Eilish finished the confident performance stringing together her hits "Everything I Wanted," "Bad Guy" and "Happier Than Ever," the exact type of songs that prove her original statement wasn't accurate. She clearly belongs in the headliner spot.

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She had already experienced several life-changing moments at Coachella before Saturday's headlining set. 

She made a loud and clear declaration that she was about to be the next big thing when she performed at the Outdoor Theatre in 2019. She was already a relatively well-known commodity, but the crowd  was so large, it had the entire grounds in a gridlock, something that hadn't happened on that stage since Wu Tang Clan in 2013. 

It was that same 2019 Coachella where Eilish famously met Justin Bieber, when he jumped down from the Coachella Stage and was interacting with fans, one of which was Eilish. The moment went viral as she was blushing and nervous like the 17-year-old girl she was. 

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