Clairo live in London: a hero’s welcome for an artist still finding her feet on stage

London, Shepherd’s Bush Empire, December 2, 2019

When Billie Eilish stepped on stage at London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire back in March of this year, she was greeted by some of the mightiest screams ever heard in the grand old venue. Those welcoming Claire Cottrill tonight can’t be far off on the clap-o-meter.

The singer’s first of two nights in London come off the back of a mammoth two-month US tour in support of Clairo’s debut album ‘Immunity’. A record that sits in the space between lush bedroom-pop and chart-bound hits, it marked out the Boston native as one of Generation Z’s brightest new talents, and she’s given a hero’s welcome by the sold-out crowd, many of whom mimic her dyed hair and fashion sense – surely the sign of a singer heading for huge, cultish things.

But despite the hysteria in the crowd, there’s something oddly muted about the performance. Clairo and her three-piece band offer subtle tinkling around the studio versions of ‘Immunity’, with jazz-flecked instrumentation taking the songs in wavier, looser directions. It works in some instances – opener ‘Alewife’ still cuts with the same intensity that it does on the record – but a number of songs instead feel lightweight and flimsy, and it’s only in the driving guitars and sweet vocal riff of ‘Sofia’ that her music truly comes to life.

Clairo performs at O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire on December 02, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Lorne Thomson/Redferns)

While ‘Immunity’ managed to revel and succeed in its undefined status, flicking between genres, ideas and personalities with glee, the live show also sees Clairo sitting in a middle-ground between earthy songwriter and bonafide pop star, and tonight’s encore – the show’s frenetic, glorious highlight – hints that she’s best suited to the latter.

In penultimate song ‘Pretty Girl’, the personality that marked Clairo out as one to watch gets shown in its best form. Her muted stage interaction thus far is given a boost when a screen behind her plays the track’s video – a tongue-in-cheek lyric video that first shot her to fame.

Calls for a moshpit during the night’s very final track, her Mura Masa collaboration ‘I Don’t Think I Can Do This Again’, are gleefully accepted, and by the time the song’s glorious drop arrives, the entire downstairs is bouncing frenetically, and Clairo matching their energy step by step.

In a show that at times feels wonky and undefined, this euphoric closing moment of catharsis should offer a whisper about where the rising star should go next. After all, the 2020 festivals beckon.