Published Oct 10, 2019Clairo made her headlining Vancouver debut at the Harbour Convention Centre on Wednesday night with a shaky, but undeniably heartfelt performance. Most importantly, though, her fans — who sold out the show — held her up the entire time.
Kicking things off in harder fashion than what Clairo fans likely bargained for were Oakland quartet Hello Yello. With drums, guitar, bass and a producer, they blended funk and rock like the Red Hot Chili Peppers minus the overt sexuality, or Incubus minus the lofty poetry. But they successfully warmed up the crowd and received more than polite applause after their set.
Next came Manila-born, London-raised musician Bea Kristi, aka Beabadoobee. She took cues from one of her biggest influences, Elliott Smith, with bittersweet and straight-up sad strummers. But she also showed her '80s and '90s alt-rock influences, with catchy songs like "If You Want To" and "Apple Cider," while "I Wish I Was Stephen Malkmus" appropriately trudged towards big open verses and choruses. The graceful "Ceilings" billowed beneath cascading guitar effects.
On her debut album, Immunity, Clairo wrote with restraint. She could have easily blown up its 11 songs into pop anthems, but instead, she let them remain quiet storms. As eager as her fans were to see her, they emulated her restraint during set opener "Alewife." After an initial burst of deafening screams, their rapture subsided into silence. But their silence likely spoke more to the power of her music, of that specific slow-building song's capacity to hold them in awe.
Clairo's music is best suited for private rumination, and translating them to the stage can be a challenge. Regardless, her greatest challenge last night was that she could not sing the low ends of songs like "Impossible," "Get With U" and "Sinking." It was too bad that her voice faltered, because "Impossible" is a glimmering gem and the latter two are some of her most soothing and seductive songs.
But her fans came to the rescue; they sang along and carried some of her songs better than she did. The communal singing also made "Bags," "Sofia," and "Flaming Hot Cheetos" some of the night's most special moments. She didn't need much help on "Bubble Gum," though, not even from her band: she alone strummed her guitar over a bit of drumming; the flickering song stood out like a lone candle in the dark.
Clairo told the audience she wanted to see everyone dancing by the end of the night. But despite all the sing-alongs, a melancholic shuffle was about as much as even standouts like the lithe "Softly" and soft rocker "North" could generate.
That is, until her encore. Only then did the mood become truly upbeat, beginning with the groove-laden "4EVER." She then invited two fans onstage to help sing her original viral hit, "Pretty Girl." Clairo saved all her flair for her final song, "I Don't Think I Can Do This Again," her collaboration with producer and multi-instrumentalist Mura Masa. And his presence was in the air: lights flashed for the first time, illuminating the venue. The song thumped along with galloping drums and a high-energy electronic beat.
As much as this uptempo final stretch enlivened Clairo's fans, the introspective moments were what they went for. And her fans were happiest during those moments, even if they had to help Clairo, whose music has helped them so much, to get over heartbreak, to find confidence when they were feeling low, to figure out their sexuality. They were happy to return the favour.