In a gloriously sweaty Oxford Art Factory last Wednesday night, YouTube-born eclectic pop sensation Clairo floated onto the stage with her air of unwaveringly cool energy and rebellious self-confidence. Sweetening our ears with lucid and sugary vocals in the defiantly sensitive ‘B.O.M.D’ (‘Boy of My Dreams’), the comparatively hyped-up crowd created a delightful juxtaposition of soulful energy. The synthy pop that accompanied Clairo’s impressive vocal range and unembellished lyrics made for a perfectly embracing opening track. Following the stellar support of relaxed indie pop by the up-and-coming teenage girl gang Erthlings, 20-year-old US-born Clairo was clearly ready to offer a matured youthful sound to her already captivated crowd.
Introducing her beloved introspective persona with a gentle nod and quietly gruff, “Hello Sydney”, Clairo teased the audience to channel their own reflective space while still bopping along to her irresistibly catchy pop tracks. The peacefully sombre ‘Get With U’ rung softly, and boldly challenged a boisterous crowd. The wave-like melody combined with tranquil percussion and keyboard backing to the echo-style lyrics, “Sometimes I’m just alone, sometimes I’m just sittin’ at home” fostered a liberatingly melancholy reflection of relationships with self and others.
This energy carried through into Clairo’s performance of the sensual and moody ‘Hello?’. While still exhibiting Clairo’s air of brooding, ‘Hello?’ had a boppier synth pop feel with its phone dialling opening and recorded rap backing by Rejjie Snow. The revving-up feel achieved through Clairo’s dissonant-range vocals and anticipating lyrics, “you’re just one click away, click away, click away from something real or fake, real or fake, real or fake”, situated ‘Hello?’ as a soundtrack to our anxious social media era. This track’s exploration of online interactions was a microcosm of Clairo’s ability to voice the existential anxieties of the contemporary millennial.
While Clairo’s unwaveringly quiet persona at times created sound difficulties, this was more a reflection of a crowd unwilling to sacrifice their excitable enthusiasm during tracks that demanded an inwardly-focused atmosphere. The slower, contemplative feels to ‘Bubblegum’ and ‘Feel Something’ required greater effort to connect with amidst a buzzing, extroverted crowd. Nevertheless, Clairo’s unfailingly soulful performance made it difficult not to feel her richly poetic self-reflections on emotional disconnect.
The crowd’s hyped-up energy was, however, appreciated during Clairo’s performance of charismatic pop tunes like ‘Flaming Hot Cheetos’ and ‘Better’. Throwing a bag of Cheetos at a lucky crowd member to signal the track, Clairo freely demonstrated her cheeky side. This was matched by more tangible audience engagement, as the enigmatic artist held the mic out to beckon the crowd’s enthusiastic chorus. Thankfully, this audience interaction did not distract from Clairo’s ethereal vocals in catchy pop track ‘Better’, which seemed to airily float throughout the crowded venue.
Clairo passionately belted with her feminist anthems. Inciting a powerful call-back in track ‘Girl’, saw the boisterous Oxford Art Factory angrily chant “I’m not just a girl”, in what was an indisputably touching artist-audience interaction. Speaking to the difficulties of being a dismissed girl in a patriarchal world, Clairo yet again touched on an issue so central to our era. Repeatedly calling all girls to the front for the indie pop icon’s most iconic hit, ‘Pretty Girl’, Clairo received rapturous cheers from girls and guys alike. It was unsurprising therefore, to witness the entire crowd passionately sing along to the disguisedly resistant lyrics, which sarcastically promise traditional feminine conformity; “I could be a pretty girl, I’ll wear a skirt for you”.
Closing the night off on the same dance track vibe it started on, Clairo and her adoring audience symbiotically grooved along to ‘4EVER’ and collectively expressed the anxieties and complexities of human connection; a theme resonating throughout the indie pop sensation’s eclectic and alluring show.