If you think you don’t know who Claud is, you might be mistaken. Fans of of Phoebe Bridgers have a head start in recognizing Claud as the first artist to sign to her label, Saddest Factory Records, in 2020. Maybe you saw the 22-year-old singer-songwriter accompanying the Jack Antonoff-led band Bleachers on “SNL” in January, or on their tour last year. If you’re a Clairo listener, perhaps you caught that singer’s lyrical shout-out to Claud in her song “Bambi,” where she sings about sitting “in front of my Claud’s tapestry.”
Claud released their debut album “Super Monster,” a free-spirited pop-rock exploration of youth, love and queerness, in February 2021. But, regardless of how you may have been introduced to the Chicago-born musician, it was clear on Wednesday night at the Troubadour in West Hollywood — where Bridgers herself was in attendance — that the ultra-talented Claud is more than capable of holding their own.
After a lively opening set from fellow Interlochen graduate Kali, Claud stepped on stage to the sound of Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger,” prepared to face the sold-out house with all the ferocity that the song implies. They kicked off their set with “Overnight,” a fuzzy serenade about the magic of desire becoming reality, backed only by bassist Molly Kirschenbaum and drummer Frankie Impastato.
Although Claud’s music is often described as bedroom pop, it’s a mistake to assume that their live show would be a snooze. With a smirk on their face and wearing a white tank top and oversized button-down, they asserted themselves as a true heartthrob during amped-up versions of their songs “Gold,” “Easy” and “Cuff Your Jeans” with a lime-green guitar in their hands. Their presence recalled the carefree seduction of ‘90s rockers, and the screams from the audience after Claud jumped onto a raised platform downstage solidified that notion. One fan made a heart shape with their fingers to express their admiration.
Despite the aesthetic comparisons, Claud embodies a unique blend of genre and style that is hard to categorize. Their music explores the push and pull of masculinity and femininity, and submitting to deep wells of emotion while simultaneously asserting themselves to the outside world. During the cheeky song “That’s Mr. Bitch To You,” Claud bounced around the stage with their middle finger up to the audience while vowing that they “won’t let a straight man throw me off.”
The evening also had no shortage of ballads, with performances of “This Town” and “Tommy,” two distinctive songs about relationships going south. “When you say my name, it don’t hold the weight / Like it does when you talk about Tommy,” Claud crooned.
The “Super Monster” cover features a drawing by Claud of a cartoon version of themselves, with wide eyes and tousled hair that is green on one side and blue on the other. Throughout the evening, the stage lights alternated between the two colors, and even the green exit sign offstage seemed to get the memo. Metaphorically, the colors also seemed to represent the duality of Claud’s setlist: fresh, green youthfulness offset by the blues of melancholia.
After Claud declared, “Let’s dance!,” the show picked up again with a sing-along to the anthemic pop tune “Guard Down.” During the bridge, Claud soloed at the keyboard and edited the lyrics to say, “There’s nothing like an L.A. summer.” For the concert’s penultimate performance of Claud’s most popular song, “Soft Spot,” balloons and beach balls descended upon the audience as it chanted the song’s chorus, and the venue briefly turned into a playground while Claud knelt on stage and dueted with their bassist.
The evening was a special opportunity for audience members to express their yearning, insecurity, softness, confusion and joy without judgment. Claud explores these feelings, which are often difficult to express in everyday life, and reminds their audience that vulnerability doesn’t have to be a dark experience, but can also be bright and colorful. Claud’s career is in its nascence, and the show was only the ninth stop on a 30-show tour. But the concert felt like a window into what’s to come for the chameleonic artist, who is on track to become a powerful voice for a new generation of music lovers.