One of my biggest gigging regrets was rocking up to see Loyle Carner too late to catch his support. You’ll probably cotton on to where I’m going with this… It was Arlo Parks.
But, after hanging in there on the waiting list for many, many months, Arlo’s Belgrave show has finally happened, and it was a blast.
In a bid to learn from prior lessons and not be as silly, I went in good time and saw Frances Baker assume centre stage as support. This up-and-coming songstress and producer has only just released her debut single, ‘Bringing Me Down’, and, rather fittingly, I’ll be needing it to do just that after this evening’s electrifying buzz.
The polite, unassuming Baker was talented beyond her knowledge, and she announced it was actually her first ever trip to the UK. She was humble in stature and melodic in voice, while amps belted out all the seriously awesome sounds she’s been producing herself. Her soulful tones smacked of a young Corinne Bailey Rae, with even the odd nod to Norah Jones, so keep your ears out for her — I get the sense this is just the very start of her campaign. And with Arlo’s buy-in, that’s a solid boost, too.
The room was about about as packed as it could’ve been, which was interesting after the day’s 28-degree heat, amid this post-pandemic/getting-on-with-it era we’re also in. The stage was dotted with sunflowers, a traditional old TV and other homely paraphernalia, giving a warm glow only matched by that of the energetic Leeds crowd.
Every single lyric was projected in the most angelic, harmonious fashion, with Arlo’s effortless coolness oozing through constantly. Her rhythm was on point and her delight in being on stage again was clear, all as her backing band performed more as a full-time outfit than just her musicians. There was a recurring funk running throughout each song, and there might as well have been smoke coming off the guitars — bass included. Those solos? A whole new level of slick.
Things kicked off with ‘Hurt’, which was upbeat, groovy and set the mood. That pace was very much lapped up by the crowd, who were almost raucous — classic Leeds. There was certainly the same uptempo tone and excitement during the oh-so catchy ‘Too Good’ and then on ‘Hope’, which was actually used as the encore. But lungs were also set screeching during the chorus of ‘Caroline’.
There was a lot of enthusiasm during ‘Cola’, Arlo’s first-dropped offering way back when. Her playing of that was a nice, complementing element that might seem rather apt when Frances Baker no doubt has the same rise as her headline counterpart.
‘Black Dog’ shone through as an important but more sombre number during the gig, but it was ‘Eugene’ for me that was particularly colossal. Arlo Parks flawlessly treads a fine line between chirpy-come-bubbly and sad-meets-melancholic, and that track is the latter. It harks back to pre-pandemic notions and whimsy, and it’s also really quite an impactful bit of songwriting. It was a real bonus to finally hear it in the flesh, so to speak.
So, yes, that was a sweaty one. But was it sublime? Oh, you bet.