The transition from bedroom pop to one of New York’s biggest stages is not an easy one — the intimate sound and emotions of the loosely defined style are almost the polar opposite of the big gestures and loud volume it often takes to fill a major venue. Yet two of the genre’s most popular (and youngest) artists, Clairo and Arlo Parks, did it with ease Thursday night before an impressively full crowd at New York’s historic, 6,000-capacity Radio City Music Hall.
Parks, 21 — who is nominated for two 2022 Grammys — is already a major star in her native England and is the more animated performer of the two, although Thursday’s show represented a big step up from her last area performance (at the 650-capacity Music Hall of Williamsburg in September). Dancing in a loose and unhurried fashion, she eased her five-piece band through a 40-minute set containing most of her warm and assured debut album, “Collapsed in Sunbeams,” adding her latest single, “Softly,” before the finale of what has become her signature song, “Hope,” with its uplifting chorus: “You’re not alonе, like you think you are/ We all havе scars, I know it’s hard/ You’re not alone.”
Clairo’s onstage demeanor is as low-key as her soft voice, and she remarked on several occasions that the “surreal” show was the largest she and her band had ever headlined. Indeed, it’s been a long and surreal journey for the 23-year-old singer, who began releasing songs online nearly a decade ago and saw her “Pretty Girl” become a viral smash during her freshman year of college; she finished out the semester and almost immediately went on tour with Dua Lipa. While her debut LP, “Immunity,” is essentially indie-pop often filled with lyrics about insecurity and depression, her latest, the Jack Antonoff-produced “Sling,” is more chill and orch-pop in nature, conjuring visions of the Zombies, Nilsson and Carole King.
Yet she’s clearly found her audience, which erupted gleefully when she came onstage and loudly sang along with some of her most intimate and vulnerable lyrics, and there was no shortage of “We love you Clairo!”s in between songs.
Clairo’s understated stage presence peaks with an occasional casual saunter around the stage, but she compensates with a versatile six-piece band and a set dominated by warm stage lighting — several spotlights on stands, illuminated canvas-covered blobs and a pair of hanging overhead lights that you might see in a classy living room, as well as a video screen that displayed gif-like animated water-color artwork.
The setlist showed a similar awareness, starting off with songs from “Sling” before ramping up the energy (relatively speaking) with several from her 2019 debut full-length, “Immunity”; that pattern repeated a couple more times during the hour-long set. The audience rolled with the tempo — shouting ecstatically on the relatively fast songs, staying with her on the slower ones.
The set concluded with her breakthrough song, “Pretty Girl” and closed with “Sofia,” the audience shouting along ecstatically with the song’s gently lilting melody and lyrics, which seemed to speak for many in the crowd: “I think we could do it if we tried/ If only to say you’re mine/ Sofia, know that you and I/ Shouldn’t feel like a crime.”
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