If someone had turned around to me 18 months ago and said that it would be over a year and half until I’d attend a live music event in the flesh again, I’d have turned to them and said one of two things, either: A) “Oh come off it, that’s never going to happen”, or B) “Why?! What catastrophic, life-threatening accident am I about to be involved in?!”
As it turns out, that figurative someone would be right. It has been way too long. It has felt like a lifetime. But, on the evening of Tuesday 10th August, at roughly 19:47, the wait was over.
Not only had it been a long while since I had set foot in a music venue, but it had also been an even longer time since stepping foot into a nightclub. Thanks to Banquet Records, though, both of those waits were able to come to an end in one swift go.
It’s incredibly hard to believe that considering the atmospheric rise she has experienced over the past couple of years that Arlo Parks, prior to Tuesday, had yet to headline a show in London. To many, she is a name that appears to have been around for a lot longer than she actually has been, so to learn that this was her first hometown headline show, perhaps understandably, took a few people aback. Such is the way of the world at the moment though, that fans and artist alike have had to wait so long for a live performance.
With no support act for the evening, we were able to jump straight into the main event, with Arlo taking centre stage. The 21-year old was joined on stage by a surprisingly large band, comprised of two guitarists, drummer, keyboard player, bassist, and trumpeter to boot.
The Hammersmith native offered just over an hour’s worth of material to the packed out venue, providing everyone with solid evidence to prove why the Mercury Prize nominee has been hotly tipped for great things in the near future. Park’s voice in a live setting is just as good as it is on record, a feat not many in today’s pop scene littered with autotune and overproduction can claim. Her velvety soft vocal permeated across the auditorium, caressing the ears of those in attendance and providing the truly soothing nature that has become synonymous with her majestic sound.
Parks, who has been helping to fill the boots left by Annie Mac on Radio 1’s Future Stars show since the legendary DJ left the station, meandered her way through a set consisting of ten of the twelve tracks found on her debut record Collapsed in Sunbeams and five from her back catalogue. If there was to be one criticism of the evening, it would be that the pace and mood of the show very much remained the same throughout. Whilst Parks is clearly a very talented songwriter and vocalist, the singular, almost sedate pace of her material could possibly start to feel a little lifeless. The general feeling upon leaving the venue is that an hour of the chilled out vibe was enough, and any longer would run the risk of tedium.
This is not to say that the show was boring in any way whatsoever, quite the contrary. However, if an artist as talented as Parks, who has been tasked with the unenviable fortune of supporting megastar Billie Eilish on the American’s UK leg of her tour next year, is to progress her career to a point where she herself wishes to be a headline act selling out arena tours, she will need to provide a more varied musical offering. Currently, the intimacy of venues such as Pryzm, combined with a setlist timed at just over 60 minutes, appears to be the perfect sweet spot. I will stop short of saying that Parks is suited best to the jazz lounges of the big city, but it may have been a comment I made upon leaving Kingston…
Overall though, Arlo Parks provided us with a wonderfully sensual experience. For a first live music performance since the “end” of the lockdown phase of this pandemic, it was a joy to witness and just as enthralling to stand amongst fellow live music enthusiasts once more.
Boy, it really is good to be back.
Arlo Parks was playing at Pryzm in Kingston on Tuesday 10th August.
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