Manchester is hot today, and the sticky heat present the last couple of days found its way into every corner of the city.
The pubs and bars up and down Oxford Street overflow with revellers and there is a distinct ‘Friday night’ feel about the city, with the palpable sense of weekend endeavour not hampered in spite of the heat. This atmosphere makes its way to Manchester Academy, and a triumphant Arlo Parks show is a superb moment in time for the huge crowd.
The Academy fills up late, and the humid anticipation is reaching a fever pitch as Arlo Parks hits the stage. Right from the off, it is noticeable how Parks is adored by her audience and she bounds about the stage in a Cramps tee. Her band launch into ‘Bruiseless’, and the short, sharp intro to the set is like an immediate punch through the haze. ‘Weightless’ and ‘Blades’ follow swiftly in a huge show of energy and intent.
As Parks bounds up and down the stage, the energy that she exhibits in such a hot room is already an impressive feat in itself, but furthermore, Parks is note-perfect. ‘Caroline’ is an early highlight, and the crowd is loud in their chorus. Arlo doesn’t put the mic to her lips and she leans into the masses to hear them shout the “Caaaaroline” refrain directly back at her (you have to assume similar scenes are taking place at the Dexys’ gig across the city inside Bridgewater Hall). Arlo finds herself in the crowd at one point, bouncing high on the barrier with her fans.
She punctuates her tracks with anecdotes about their creation, which are often funny, heartbreaking and poetically romantic. As well as her sublime lyricism, Parks is a wonderful storyteller and her tracks can be cuttingly relatable and crushingly sad whilst simultaneously embodying a profound euphoria. ‘Eugine’ is another great moment, and again the crowd are in fine voice for Parks: her band showcase their skills too, and the cut is given a fantastic guitar solo. This is the case throughout, and each member has a unique moment or two woven into the set to showcase their abundant talent.
‘Hurt’, ‘Too Good’ and ‘Black Dog’ is a three-play that is almost cruel in how emotive and cutting the songs are. The sweat from foreheads becomes indistinguishable from tears on cheeks, as Parks pours her heart out. ‘Devotion’, a highlight from her new record My Soft Machine sounds phenomenal, and the entire band come to life once again. Arlo, black Telecaster hung around her neck, sounds fantastic through huge, fuzzy guitar parts. She looks like a grunge frontwoman; donning the low-slung guitar with a pleated skirt, Cramps tee and flash of red hair as the diverse influences of her musical output are represented across Parks herself.
A single track encore of ‘Softly’ is a beautiful, bouncy closer and it embodies the whole Arlo Parks experience, you dance, you laugh, you cry at her touching words and fantastic music. The show is a triumph and Arlo brings the house down. It’s evident that moments like this are not lost on the young performer, and you can’t help but marvel at a star in the making.
Photo credit: Alexandra Waespi