Following a summer of festivals and sweaty live shows, Arlo Parks was the perfect way to cool off and relax as Autumn approaches, with an intimate gig at Belgrave.
At just 21, the same age as me, it is shocking how much Arlo Parks has achieved. Releasing one of this year’s most critically acclaimed debut records, and touring across the country to sold out shows. The singer and poet deserve every second of their success.
After many repeat listens of ‘Collapsed In Sunbeams’, it felt great to finally catch her unique blend of R&B, neo soul, and bedroom pop live, in a crowd full of students who had probably been waiting ages for this moment. In the queue for Belgrave, it was tempting to grab a few drinks and enjoy the last of the sun, but we quickly realised it was time to head indoors.
This was her first show back in Leeds since playing Headrow House in March 2020, just ten days before the first national lockdown. She smiles and sways somewhat shyly on stage, as if she’s still stunned to see a packed crowd, and after the strange year we’ve had, it must be weird to be selling out shows to a dedicated fanbase when your debut album blew up whilst everyone was still stuck indoors.
Despite the low-key, dreamy nature of her music, her stage presence could be felt through the crowd who held on to her every word and sung every chorus with her. These songs were made to be heard in this environment, with an incredibly talented live band behind her. The student favourite venue was the perfect setting for her soft, mesmerising vocals and instrumentals.
She opened with ‘Hurt’, which was definitely a standout from the night. She also performed fan favourites like ‘Eugene’, ‘Cola’, and ‘Too Good’. The night was full of highlights, like the exceptionally gut-wrenching ‘Hope’, and the adolescent anthem ‘Green Eyes’. With album cuts that tackle themes of self-worth, depression, and sexuality, she clearly connected with many members of the crowd who nodded along to her sharp song writing backed by luscious production. Her lyrics on mental health are at times painfully relatable and hit even harder in a live setting – as did her reciting the poetry that begins the album.
Powering through all her best songs, one of my favourites was ‘Caroline’. Her unique, hushed vocals cleverly juxtaposed against the strong chorus, making for a powerful moment. Unfortunately, she didn’t play ‘For Violet’, which was sorely missed. Perhaps one of the strongest tracks from her debut record, it would have been a great moment to hear the gloomier downbeat track against the moody lighting, but perhaps it was a too emotionally heavy track for the night, with heart-breaking lyrics like ‘it feels like nothing’s changing and I can’t do this’.
Whilst her slow songs may at first glance seem like your usual calming bedroom pop, further listens really personify the harsh reality of her lyrics, showing a huge contrast to their laidback sound. This translated amazingly to a live performance, where her typically cosy, bittersweet tracks brought on an entirely new energy.
The only other nit-pick would be that after an hour, we wanted a bit more, but she performed a tight setlist with no room for filler. It was an astonishing show, and we were lucky to catch her in such a scaled down venue. It was a superb evening of melancholic music, made for a generation of young adults who need a voice. We even got to meet her; she was incredibly kind to her fans, and endlessly thankful for all our compliments.
With her own show on Radio 1, with guests like Lorde, and having already collaborated with the likes of Clairo and Loyle Carner, it’s only up from here for the BRIT award winning ‘breakthrough artist’.
If you’re a fan of Phoebe Bridgers, Solange, or the early albums of Blood Orange, check her music out, and definitely go see her live. We can’t wait to see where she goes next, and if her next album is anything as good as ‘Collapsed In Sunbeams’, she’s surely cemented herself as one of the country’s best talents.
Featured Image Credit: Euphoria