Strewn across the stage of London’s O2 Academy Brixton, there are enough decorative rugs and floor lamps to fill IKEA’s bedroom department. It’s not quite the bedroom that 24-year-old Clairo – real name Claire Cottrill – made all of her formative hits in. Here, where the cosy decorations end, she’s greeted by an audience of 5,000 people. “Holy fuck,” she exclaims when the lights come up after the crooning ‘Zinnias’. “I’ve never seen this many people!”
The last time Cottrill was at this venue was back in 2020, when she collected the trophy for Best New Act In The World at the 2020 NME Awards. Since then, the Massachusetts-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist has stepped out from the bedroom-pop sensibilities of her sublime debut album ‘Immunity’ to create something lusher and richer on 2021’s follow-up, ‘Sling’. The tour in support of the latter record should have been a big celebration, but instead, it’s been stunted by a string of postponements and cancellations, with pandemic touring issues, a sinus infection and the star injuring her eardrums all contributing to the delays.
Finally, though, Clairo is back on stage tonight for the last leg of her world tour and ready to recap her story so far. After the mellow musings of ‘Wade’ ring out, Clairo switches out the acoustic guitar for an electric one and announces: “We’re gonna play some songs from my first record!” So starts the opening of 2019’s ‘North’, a fitting ode to tour romances that injects more colour and jangly guitar licks to a folksy string of cuts, followed by the less pensive ‘Bags’. “I don’t wanna watch TV anymore / Can you figure me out?” she asks as the band’s saxophone player takes centre stage for an enormous solo, Clairo affectionately watching on from the wings.
When Clairo returns to tracks from ‘Sling’, there’s a collective feeling of comfort that spreads across the room. It’s an album filled with questions about her own future, mental health and motherhood, like the introspective reflections on an unhealthy relationship in ‘Harbor’ or the dreamy callings of ‘Amoeba’, which finds her reassessing her priorities in life. “I don’t wanna see any phones for this one,” Clairo tells fans before dipping into the despairing ‘Blouse’, which immediately receives a roaring ovation. ‘Just For Today’ explores the artist’s struggles with depression and anxiety, and fans take each other arm-in-arm as she touches on more personal musings.
Soon, the final hits in the setlist arrive and Clairo has brought all the bells and whistles tonight. She lends a more mature sound to both ‘Flaming Hot Cheetos’ – the 2017 track that first led many fans to her music five years ago – and ‘Pretty Girl’, each demonstrating a new competency in production alongside a backing band who help to fill out both tracks with a grander, plusher adaption. She jumps around on stage, running from corner to corner as fans belt out the lyrics, switching the atmosphere up from a sea of sombre onlookers to a collective, joyful blowout.
Before wrapping things up with fan favourite ‘Sofia’, Cottrill takes a step back to thank her band and crew. “This has been an excruciatingly hard tour to get through,” she says softly, almost tearful. “But we did it!” As trying as it might have been, this final lap reaffirms Clairo’s position as an indie virtuoso, quietly taking pop music by storm.
‘Just For Today’
‘Flaming Hot Cheetos’