Gabriella Saadia flew to L.A. from her hometown of Houston earlier this week to see Billie Eilish play a tribute to Frank Sinatra and Peggy Lee at the Hollywood Bowl. When the 16-year-old heard she might have a second chance to catch Eilish, at an intimate Friday noontime gig at Hollywood’s Amoeba Music, “I screamed out loud and sprinted out of the hotel,” she said.
Clutching a bag of Eilish records and merch, Saadia was one of a few hundred fans who got to see the L.A.-raised Grammy winner take a victory lap on the one-year anniversary of her album “Happier Than Ever.” After headlining Coachella and three nights at the Kia Forum in Inglewood, this was more or less a coffeehouse set, likely the closest the crowd of young fans would ever get to their 20-year-old hero.
The Highland Park native has enjoyed an extremely compressed run to superstardom — from debut single in 2015 to voice-of-a-generation status seven years later. Along the way, she’s been uncommonly candid about her struggles with Tourette Syndrome, her body image and paralyzing depression in the spotlight.
Fans like Larry Zuvillaga have literally grown up with her.
“Her last album is a coming of age record,” said Zuvillaga, an Orange County resident. “I’m about to be 23, and I loved that it was about dealing with entering adulthood.”
Eilish performed four songs at Amoeba, accompanied by her brother Finneas on acoustic guitar: “Billie Bossa Nova,” “Getting Older,” “TV” and “Happier Than Ever.”
When she asked the audience for requests, she steered them away from the bleakest corners of her catalog. “I’m hearing you want ‘Everybody Dies,’ but it’s such a downer!” Eilish quipped.
But on “TV,” a new guitar-strummed single, Eilish noted her well of depression around the loss of reproductive rights. “The internet’s gone wild watching movie stars on trial,” she sang mournfully, “While they’re overturning Roe v. Wade.” The crowd howled with approval.
“She’s a really important voice for young women who are watching their rights get destroyed,” said Maureen Kelly, 31, who came over from Silver Lake on her lunch break. Kelly said she’d volunteered at a reproductive health clinic in college, and took heart at one of pop’s biggest stars unambiguously defending abortion rights.
“These are dark times,” Kelly said. “ I’m glad Gen Z is getting angry and isn’t going to take anything for granted anymore.”
Closing with “Happier Than Ever,” Eilish got the room roaring. “I don’t talk s— about you on the internet,” she sang. “‘Cause that s— is embarrassing, you were my everything / And all that you did was make me f— sad.”
“I’ve seen her three times at the Forum,” Zuvillaga said on his way out of Amoeba. “But wow, never like this.”