Hundreds of teenagers and their parents flocked to Union Transfer for the Philadelphia stop of 16-year-old Billie Eilish’s sold-out “1 By 1” tour Nov. 4. The singer-songwriter departed on the tour in October accompanied by her brother, Finneas O’Connell, who goes by Finneas, and Atlanta rapper Childish Major.
Doors opened at 6 p.m., so that’s when we arrived. Upon stepping out of the Lyft, it set in that this show was going to be an event. A line of antsy, cold teens stretched from the doors of the venue to the shady alley around the back. It was about a 40 minute wait until we got in and I was surprised to see there weren’t even that many people inside yet. We snuck up to the front on the side and stood with the moms against the wall as the sea of mostly teenage girls filled in.
Finneas, the 21-year-old brother of Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell (yes, that is her full name,) took the stage promptly at 7 p.m.. The singer-songwriter, who writes and produces for Eilish, has a style much similar to that of Greyson Chance with hints of John Legend on his slower ballads. He switched back-and-forth between sitting at a keyboard and sampler, and standing at a mic with an acoustic guitar. I was pleasantly surprised by both his music and the quality of his voice. I’ll definitely be looking into him more in the future.
Finneas was followed by Childish Major, an up-and-coming hip-hop artist in the Atlanta scene. Originally a producer, Childish Major made the shift to providing his own vocals on his 2017 project “Woo$ah.” As a producer, he worked with popular artists like J. Cole, Wiz Khalifa and Rocko. The mixing and sound quality of the accompaniment was great and Childish Major brought a good energy to the show. He performed his bigger songs like “I Like You” and “NoEyeInTeam,” as well as his newest single, “Know Nothing.” Overall the performance was solid, and served as a good opener but between some corniness in Childish Major’s lyrics and audience interactions, it didn’t feel quite like he mustered a ton of energy leading into the headlining performance by Eilish. That being said, the guy shows a lot of promise and it could be very possible he was playing to the audience that was there.
When Eilish took the stage at 8:30 p.m., the crowd erupted in screams that honestly hurt my ears, but it was obvious that any energy that was lacking in the crowd had been easily recouped. Eilish kicked off her set by unveiling a large spider on stage, equipped with lit up eyes and legs that served as tunnels for the drums and guitar accompaniment on either side. She came out standing on the spider and would occasionally head back up there throughout the show.
She came out singing “My Boy” and the crowd was instantly enticed. Eilish used to be a dancer and it showed in her movements and stage presence. She was jumping and twirling with grace and energy, her blue hair whipping around and contrasting her black long sleeve shirt and shorts. She did this for most songs, aside from a few slower ballads and did an amazing job preserving her vocal quality and energy throughout. Eilish is without a doubt a performer and a talented vocalist and writer. As she launched into her second song, “Idontwannabeyouanymore,” she said, “If you hate yourself this song is for you.” I couldn’t help but chuckle at the abrupt shift in tone but she soon carried out an emotional and beautiful performance of that, and many other songs.
She performed all of the songs off her 2017 EP “Don’t Smile at Me” and has since released singles such as “lovely” (with Khalid) and “you should see me in a crown.” She mixed the old with the new well and even went so far as to perform “Six Feet Under,” which was a deep cut much of the audience seemed pleased to see performed.
The audience was unlike any I’ve seen before. It felt like every person in that room knew the word to every single song. Oftentimes, the audience was so loud, they overpowered Eilish herself. A few times Eilish even noticed this herself and shrugged and held the mic out to the audience, which just prompted them to turn it up another notch.
A few times during the performance, Finneas came back out to provide some guitar accompaniment for his sister, which the audience loved. He even got a guitar solo near the end of the show. The two worked well together and certainly brought a solemn and haunting yet powerful energy to the stage.
Eilish’s music is amazing and it was great to see it brought to life with such passion and genuine talent on stage. When performing her newest single, “When the Party’s Over,” Eilish asked that the audience put away their phones and share the moment of that song together. This isn’t exactly a new thing for artists to do but I still appreciate it every time its done. It fosters a sense of community amongst the audience quickly and it was a great song choice for it.
Despite some irritations I had due to the audience, the show was impressive and entertaining and I can’t think of a better way to have spent my Sunday night.