The first time I heard Massachusetts-born singer-songwriter Clairo, it was as a result of her earliest music being shared on the Instagram Story of LA indie rock icon Jenny Lewis. I’m pretty sure the song was “Pretty Girl” — which happens to be the favorite of my 12-year-old niece who was excited when I told her on Saturday night that I was seeing Clairo perform with Arlo Parks at the famed Greek Theatre.
I immediately was intrigued by what Clairo brought to the table, and in 2018 it was the song “4EVER” that really caught my attention. I covered the lone Blurry Vision Festival in 2018 and caught one of her first-ever live performances, and what was her first-ever festival performance, at about 12:30 or 1 PM in the afternoon. You could tell there were some nerves, and her show wasn’t yet ready for a big outdoor setting like that. But you could see the talent was there, and I kept tabs on her as she continued to build and play in front of bigger and bigger crowds.
Flash forward to Saturday and I couldn’t believe how far she’s come as a live performer in that short amount of time. Backed now by five people, including some brass players, her music has taken on a more theatrical feel to it than those early bedroom recordings that put her on the map. Touring in support of last year’s excellent sophomore album Sling, Clairo played all 12 tracks from the record while also playing six from her 2019 debut Immunity.
For me, “Bags” from that debut record was the standout moment of the set. The whole crowd was singing along, I saw people consoling friends or lovers, and you could just see how Clairo has a knack for tugging on the heartstrings at the right time. Opener Arlo Parks joined her on stage to sing on one of Clairo’s singles “Blouse” from last year’s record. The contrast of their two singing voices was perfection.
There were a number of moments during the show where Clairo — real name Claire Cottrill — got completely caught up in the moment and wore her emotions on her sleeve. She played part of her set just her with her guitar, and a standing ovation got her a little bit teary. She snapped back into performance mode and crushed the rest of her set.
Always a great songwriter, her live performance chops have more than caught up to those skills. It’s really fucking hard to command a big outdoor space like the Greek Theatre, and she had the place eating out of the palm of her hand. Everything came full circle towards the end of the set when she busted out “Pretty Girl” — the one song she played from those formidable days of her career.
Opening act Arlo Parks had been on my radar ever since she burst on the scene with “Cola” a year before the pandemic would put live touring on hiatus for quite a while. I missed her LA debut at the Moroccan Lounge but was glad to get to catch her in this setting. She’s a superstar in the making as well — don’t miss her at the Fonda Theatre later this year.
Words by Mark Ortega
Photos by Justin Higuchi