Clairo acknowledged her viral rise to fame without basking in it, putting on an intimate show that seemed more conversation than performance.

11/20/19 – Paradise Rock Club

Clairo’s recent ascension into the indie music limelight has been emblematic of the ferocity with which femme indie rock has been breaking into the mainstream. Since her viral 2017 single, “Pretty Girl,” she’s been making waves with her characteristic softness and relatability—a comforting respite from much of the toxic masculinity persisting within the indie music community. 

Her live performance at the Paradise seemed almost like an explanation for that infectious, internet-fueled stardom: digestible, only two to three minutes each; her characteristically soft, lulling voice; funk- and jazz-informed beats that kept listeners hooked throughout the set.

From the moment she slinked onstage, nervously grabbed the mic, and offered a meek “How we doin’?”, the concert was a dynamic energy tradeoff, with the crowd screaming support and encouragement as the band promptly returned it (and then some). The drummer relentlessly drove the songs while the bass and synth players deftly worked their ways around them, with Clairo’s soft vocals slithering through it all, calming it down, giving the band’s live performance warmth and suaveness all very characteristic of her unique variant of bedroom pop. Even her wardrobe selection played into that image: blue baggy pants and a black t-shirt—“bedroomy”; what you might lounge around the house in.

Starting with “Alewife,” the opener from her latest studio album, Immunity, Clairo mainly cycled through fan favorite songs—“Bubble Gum,” “Feel Something,” and “I Wouldn’t Ask You,” among others. Although, toward the end of the show she played a currently-untitled, stripped-down, solo acoustic song she’d been working on at the time.

As is understandably the case moving from lushly-produced studio tracks to live performances, Clairo’s songs at the Paradise were considerably more stripped-down—but much to her advantage. The band’s emphasis on the lower register—mainly the bass and drums—made the songs feel so much more intimate and “human,” especially on songs like “Sofia,” which, because of all this, brought her voice out much more clearly and made for an overall intimate, personal performance (although, at some points, it became hard to hear her sing over everything else).

The screen behind Clairo et al. ran stock nature clips as the band played, switching every thirty seconds or so from ocean sunset to mountain range to waterfall, adding further to the fresh, cool atmosphere of the venue.

Her supporting band often broke character, breaking into smiles and waving between songs as fans screamed “We love you!”s and sang along to almost every word of every song.

With a modest-yet-bold self-presentation throughout the show and positive interactions with the audience, Clairo seemed to maintain a self-awareness of her image and style throughout the performance, most notably in “Pretty Girl,” toward the end of the encore, during which its original webcam music video played and lip-synced along with her vocals.

Many bands’ live performances seem irritatingly one-way, almost basking in their fame and putting on a performance that aims to wow audiences more than drawing them in. But with Clairo it was comfortingly and touchingly conversational, a symbiotic relationship between performer and audience that seemed softer and more meaningful than many other indie bands attempting to live out or live up to a popular notion of “fame.”

At the Paradise, Clairo found a way to acknowledge her reputation and live up to her mounting hype in a way that still seemed effortlessly unique and personal.

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