Often labelled the voice of Gen Z, 21-year-old Arlo Parks enthralled an audience of her own generation last Sunday as she took to the Rescue Rooms stage for the opening night of her tour. Rhianna Greensmith reviews the show for Impact.
The venue had such a vibrant buzz long before we saw any sign of Parks. It was clear everyone was eager to get a good spot for the sold-out gig and soak up the gentle community atmosphere Arlo has created within her fanbase.
A lot has changed for the singer-songwriter since she was last in Nottingham. Her performance at The Bodega back in March 2020 on the cusp of lockdown came, after all, before the release of her (now Mercury Prize winning!) debut album ‘Collapsed in Sunbeams’. You could feel how delighted everyone in the audience was for her success with their continual shouting of ‘’we love you Arlo’’, and the like.
A gap left between the entrance of her band and then Arlo herself left the audience in increasingly excitable anticipation
Support for Parks came in the form of Nashville-based newbie Frances Baker. At the time of the gig Baker had yet to release any material under her name, so we really went into her performance with a blank slate. Her natural timidity was evident as she came on stage, but she soon shook off her beginner’s nerves as we were transported by her soft vocals. Standout track Bringing Me Down (now available on streaming platforms) seems akin to Parks’ own relatable lyricism in its discussion of toxic situationships. There’s no wonder she went down a treat.
A gap left between the entrance of her band and then Arlo herself left the audience in increasingly excitable anticipation. She came out to album track Hurt which, I feel, really set the foundations for her full set. The narratorial nature of the song sees Parks relaying the mental health difficulties of a character Charlie, a pseudonym for one of her real-life friends. She reads the second verse rather than singing it: ‘’Started dreaming of a house with red carnations by the windows…’’ which seems in keeping with her dual role as poet.
Cola was performed with the acknowledgement that it was the first song Parks ever put out, a further reminder of her growth in recent times. It’s quintessentially Arlo Parks in its raw and articulate depiction of love gone sour. This was swiftly followed by Just Go, which thematically echoes the same sentiment.
Not only did Arlo’s sound fill the venue, but she also occupied her stage-space in such an engaging manner. During the instrumentals she showed off her band’s talents with her energetic moves and appeared genuinely transported by the power of their sound. It was as though for a moment in time she was one of us, merely a spectator.
Her incredible audience engagement particularly stood out during Caroline where she passed the mic over to us to echo back the chorus’ shouting of the title. There was such a moment of collective joy.
her poetry recital had all the intimacy of her lyrics but stripped bare
Despite her growth in not only popularity but in her back catalogue of music since her early shows, it was wonderful to see she had not moved far from her roots. She took a pause to recite one of her poems out of a tattered notebook she had placed at her feet throughout the set. Whilst her musical sound was big and all-consuming, her poetry recital had all the intimacy of her lyrics but stripped bare. It felt like a deep chat with an old friend.
Much to my personal delight she played a favourite Eugene, which depicts an experience of unrequited love unique to the LGBTQ+ community – falling for a straight friend. It was clear from the audience’s enthusiasm, and by talking to those around me, that many members felt represented and understood by this song in particular.
Always one to advocate for mental health, Arlo made a poignant statement before she played emotional hit Black Dog, telling the audience that if they ever feel down to remember the support and warmth of the crowd as we collectively sang the track. The joint recital of the opening line ‘’I’d lick the grief right off your lips’’ particularly struck a chord in voicing that you’re never alone.
Like with the album, Arlo really delivered a performance that was honest and real. The gig mastered the right balance between energetic and fun and emotional and thought-provoking.
Though the remainder of her ‘Collapsed in Sunbeams’ tour is also sold-out (testament to her strength as an artist), should the opportunity present itself to you I genuinely could not recommend seeing Arlo Parks live enough.
In-article images courtesy of Rhianna Greensmith. Permission to use granted to Impact. No changes made to these images.
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