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Live Review : Arlo Parks Delivers Short/Sharp, Breezy/Brilliant Brisbane Set




The music of Arlo Parks is quite the anomally in modern music. There must be thousands of similar, inferior bands attempting to take on the chilled, 80's lounge R&B-fused pop like she does, there's one at the casino every night of the week week. None of this is a slight against the British singer, on the contrary, these comments go a way to explaining just how special her songs are. Her music makes the line from Nick Drake to Erykah Badu and Frank Ocean blurry, and her lyrics touch on sexual identity, queer desire, body image and mental health - it's easy to understand why she's becoming a generational voice of wisdom. Oh yeah, she just turned 22.

After an extended, jammy intro from her band, Arlo emerges on the Tivoli stage, all smiles and arms flailing to the sound of 'Green Eyes' and begins tonight's short and sharp, breezy and brilliant hour of power. It's a touch of an hour, but doesn't disappoint, it's rather perfect and a lot of ground is covered, from the majority of debut album Collapsed In Sunbeams to 'Cola', the early single that started it all, a new song and some delicious sprinkles in between.

One of her biggest tracks - 'Caroline' - appears in the set early, offering an unusually early (and very loud) sing-along and a lyric change from "artsy couple" to "Aussie couple", a response from an audience member suggestion via a large sign. The early crowd participation goes a way to show what a remarkable host Arlo is, offering comfort with ease immediately. It really should be too early in the set for a pre-meditated comment of "Thanks for making us feel at home", but it isn't - her energetic, open-hearted stage presence is something of a spiritual gift to the world. Her gentle vocals threaten to get lost in the mix at first, but are expertly navigated by the band. They adjust dynamics accordingly, ramping up the volume for the big song finish or extended jam when the mic is down and vice versa. Her stage moves are almost in contrast to her subtle grooves but, again she makes it work in favour, going from the forward hip hop lean toward the crowd to a more open back stroke. Given the back drop visuals are mostly water-based through, this very well might be the case.

'Caroline' seamlessly becomes 'Portra 400' with the thump of the kick drum and she pauses throughout the set to offer her words of wisdom on mental health ('Bluish'), "a song for the bi-sexuals" ('Eugene') and supporting depression within the audience ('Black Dog'). At this point, her setlist feels like a greatest hits, even though we're talking about an artist with only one album. She confesses the bare-bones execution of another early song 'Angel's Song' was written during her Joni and Sufjan stage. The four members of the band are excellent, clearly in deep respectful awe of their boss and playing with almost as much zest as her, all getting a moment to shine on their instrument. The guitarist is perhaps the biggest 1980's admirer, big clean-toned guitar solos and on the occasion, too much wah-wah. This is minor nit-picking though, the entire affair flows smoothly, effortlessly and free of irony.

The back end of the short setlist is stacked - the hooky story of Charlie in 'Hurt', the excellent school yard melodies of 'Too Good' and another encouraging melody in the closing 'Hope'. The band returns very briefly for the recent single 'Softly', showing fans that we're in very good hands if this is an example of the future of Arlo Parks' songwriting.

Seeing Arlo Parks live on stage is as much a therapy session as it is a concert. It's as outright fun as it is thought-provoking and we don't come away having seen an excellent show, we feel like we've made a new best friend. To consider the future of Arlo Parks and what she can do is extraordinary. The ease of which she performs and the level of quality she delivers in her writing is next level - it's going to incredible watching what she does next.


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