In the throes of deadlines and strikes, our online editor Andrea Loftus snuck down to Arlo Park’s sold out show at Headrow House to finally see the teen wonder in the flesh.
A myriad of faces young and old trickled in from the windy winter evening to grab a Red Stripe and wonder whether the nineteen year old’s rise to fame was all it seemed to be.
The support act came in the endearingly modest form of 20 year old Matilda Mann, her simplistic subtle melodies flawlessly underlaid her mature and rounded tone, reminiscent of Liz Lawrence and namely influenced by her love of the classics – Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, The Beatles.
Her catalogue of tracks bled youthful experiences that clashed with the old-soul tone that delivered them. With a mystery track called ‘The Loch Ness Monster’ thrown out to the audience for guesses of meaning and a relationship track based around Ross and Rachel from Friends, it was quite a mixed bag. However, as the smoke cascaded through the neon blue beams and sliced through her jet black guitar and celtic complexion, it was clear that behind a microphone was truly where she’s meant to be.
Opening with a mystifying musical interlude, taunting us as the audience’s eyes flickered between the two stage doors, Arlo appeared with the iconic chords of ‘Cola’ welcoming her to the stage. Her compact discography lent to the intimate feeling in the room, each one of us singing along to the lusty laments and solemn sounds. She expressed her gratitude for selling out the somewhat compact room in Headrow, all of us silently acknowledgeing how lucky we were to catch her in such a small venue, with her US debut tour alongside Hayley Williams about to change the chance of that happening again forever.
The nineteen year old is way beyond her years, the pain and pleasure that bleed through her lyrics permeate your very soul, making you wonder how someone younger than you seems to have lived so much more. Some unreleased tracks magnified this sentiment, with ‘Black Dog’ dedicated to a dear friend of hers that passed away, the lyrics “it’s so cruel what your mind can do for no reason” alluding to the current conversations around mental health and raising awareness.
She implored us to “check in with and take care of your friends” as she lulled us all with ‘Angel Song’, then switched into the sweet familiar sounds of ‘Second Guessing’. She gave a shout out to her exceptional musicians, their individual skills beyond any I’ve seen for such a small backing cohort.
As she danced with a guy in the front row, the raised stage didn’t change the fact that we were all on one level with her, bathed in the music she’d gifted us and glad to have had this moment of her time. After a naughty guitar solo that I’m still not quite over, she went into “the one that started it all off”, with ‘Super Sad Generation’ firing her into the limelight.
Her lyrics are poetry unto themselves, but for each city she’s done a show in the singer has penned a poem, and Leeds was no exception.
A Poem for Leeds
Today, I found out Soft Cell come from Leeds
And accordingly I blasted Tainted Love
Scoffing dried apricots
Wondering why I try on the past every night
Like a deep blue sundress
or an unfamiliar pulse of jealousy
It hurts to think of what might have been,
what might be, what might never change.
But sometimes playing tunes until your ears crunch and simmer
Until the floor is water,
until her face doesn’t stay so obvious and everywhere
like egg yolk on white denim.
Until you can’t remember what bleeding feels like.
Loud music makes everything feel a bit better,
it reminds you that some thoughts are real and not true.
That just because someone leaves doesn’t mean they all will.
I remember eating cold noodles in bed,
watching a turbine tare the sky to ribbons
writing poems in uppercase and trying
not to let you kill me.
But, for today, i’m listening to Soft Cell,
lips stretched out with a slice from Belgrave
My eyes water a little,
but that’s okay,
for a moment the past is fucking far away.
Closing with ‘Sophie’, letting us have our own time to shine as we all yelled the iconic “It Sucks!” between verses, you couldn’t help but marvel at her genuine empathy and modesty, with nothing but a drum skin bearing her name to prove she’s the star of this show. I genuinely think she is vastly unaware of how bright her music career with be, and already is, and it proves that being genuine is truly the best way to connect to listeners, in all their diversity, because they’ll always find a bit of themselves between your words.
[Header Image: Kate Wassell]