1st December | SWX
Photos: Craig Simmonds
21-year-old Claire Cottrill shot to Internet fame when her 2017 song and video, ‘Pretty Girl’ went viral. She became the face of ‘bedroom pop’ with her self-produced sounds accompanied by similarly low-key videos. Tonight was a chance to see how she manages to make her YouTube success translate into a live music experience for a sold-out crowd of 1,100 Bristol music fans.
The support acts this evening, Dreamer Boy and Laundry Day, worked hard to warm up the crowd and appeared to do so successfully with the already-rammed floor jumping around with them, despite the music being somewhat incongruous to Clairo‘s subtle LP, Immunity.
The songs on that record are delicate and restrained: they take repeated listens to work their way under your skin but, when you pay them proper attention, they are perfectly powerful. It is something of a challenge to present that to a loud crowd of excitable young people, some of whom appear to be more familiar with her pre-album cuts like ‘Flaming Hot Cheetos’ and ‘Drown’ than with album tracks like ‘Impossible’ or ‘Sinking’ tonight.
Nevertheless, the singer-songwriter confronts this head-on by beginning with ‘Alewife’. It’s careful and tentative, her voice exceptionally quiet, probably deliberately. For some it might be too quiet, but it forces the crowd to pay attention.
As the set progresses, Clairo’s vocals become louder and more confident but she remains constantly controlled. There’s a soulful tone to her live vocals which cannot be appreciated by only listening to the recordings. On ‘In Softly’ and ‘White Flag’, she delivers effortless vocal runs which would slot in beautifully on Mariah Carey’s R&B-infused 1997 album, Butterfly.
Clairo flips between lead guitar on slower songs, like breakthrough single, ‘Bags’ and an untitled new track and pacing back and forth to rousing renditions of ‘Sofia’, a song dealing with her early experiences of same-sex attraction, and ‘I Wouldn’t Ask You’ which deals with her hospitalisation following juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.
We need to talk more about ‘Bags’; the love in the room for what is undoubtedly one of the great songs of 2019 is beautiful to see. Evidence that it is a complete fallacy that younger audiences are only interested in algorithm-led Spotify playlists, this song is rewarded with the biggest singalong of the night. Clairo remains rooted to the spot with her guitar throughout and allows the track to speak for itself.
Her two most-streamed tracks – ‘4Ever’ and ‘Pretty Girl’ – lead the encore, before recent Mura Masa collaboration, ‘I Don’t Think I Can Do This Again’ brings proceedings to a close. These more upbeat songs get the biggest reactions, but this is largely because they are louder and bullish, inviting the crowd to sing and dance in a way that her more hushed moments cannot.
You can already see the growth between those early Soundcloud or YouTube songs and those from her Rostam-co-produced debut album. Clairo is unafraid of her music being too personal or too sparse to connect. For her audience, the more personal, the more universal.
Listen to ‘Bags’ here: