Arlo Parks radiates at The Independent

Photo of Arlo Parks at her concert
Lisi Ludwig/Senior Staff

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The Independent glowed yellow on the night of Oct. 12, mainly from the sunflowers that lined the stage. The fake foliage, while slightly gimmicky at first glance, did match the warm tone of Collapsed in Sunbeams, the debut album from Arlo Parks. As soon as the band took to the stage, however, all attention to the backdrop faded away as a heavy drum beat and bass line saturated the venue.

Arlo Parks, the stage name of London-born singer and poet Anais Oluwatoyin Estelle Marinho, walked out with confidence unknown to most 21-year-olds. Clad in a graphic tee and cargo shorts, red hair ablaze, no introduction was needed as Marinho began singing “Hurt.” This track perfectly summed up Marinho’s talents, pairing lyrical excellence with smooth vocals that concurrently soothed and awed the crowd.

The night was already off to a strong start, as six-piece pop group opener MICHELLE bounced around the stage in a whirlwind of brightly colored fun. Topping off their looks with an egg shaker and sequined scarf, MICHELLE’s members brought expressive energy to the venue, which was slowly beginning to fill up with a small crowd. The closing song to the set, “The Bottom,” had the crowd jumping alongside the group, but MICHELLE’s harmonies in slower tracks were a better testament to the group’s potential.

MICHELLE’s surprising, unapologetic authenticity continued into Marinho’s set, as every word the artist spoke or sung into the mic relayed her intense awareness about the delicacy of her lyrics. Marinho brought the album to life onstage, creating an emotional listening experience through the contrast between her album’s upbeat cadence and the palpable melancholia that lingered between each bar. Her warm presence and bright smile elicited childlike joy from the crowd, especially during tracks such as “Green Eyes” and “Too Good,” where drums and backing vocals complemented Marinho’s soulful style.

The band that supported Marinho’s vocals also deserves praise, as Sam Harding stunned on the bass, James Fernandez on drums, Dani Diodato on guitar and Madeleine Jones on supporting vocals and keys. Harding especially drew the crowd in through dedicated solos with an understated attitude. With extraordinary synchrony and talent, each musician onstage brought the support that Marinho deserved.

While this US and Canada tour celebrated Marinho’s album, her renowned covers of Frank Ocean’s “Ivy” and Phoebe Bridgers’s “Moon Song” surprisingly didn’t show up in the setlist. But considering how much strong material Collapsed in Sunbeams contains, it’s understandable that Marinho relied on her own music to curate a collectively brilliant set.

Marinho interacted with the audience with the same tenderness that floods her writing. Gratitude unbounded, Marinho shared personal anecdotes about mental health and loved ones before leading into the heart-wrenching “Black Dog.” The lightness of the backing guitar perfectly complemented the grace of the track’s lyrics, and Marinho’s clear-toned vocals floated high above the crowd.

The same familiarity and friendliness also shone through in “Caroline,” Marinho’s most popular song. At the chorus, Marinho invited the crowd to scream the lyrics, calling for an attempt to outdo previous cities on the tour. Every audience member threw back their heads and passionately crooned out the words in an endearing, off-key chant.

On her album, Marinho beckons curiosity to her style as a poet in a spoken-word piece of the same title as the record. Halfway through the set, Marinho brought out a piece of paper and recited a poem. The lights dimmed, and everyone stood so motionless that you could hear a pin drop. Curating intimacy in a room full of strangers, Marinho’s concert proved that her talent for captivating a crowd is like no other.

Marinho’s set at The Independent last week was living proof of the young artist’s deserved success. With a recent Mercury Prize win, Marinho still brought humility and raw honesty to the stage and through every lyric sang. Even after the band left the stage, the crowd remained spellbound, wishing for even just a second more with Marinho.

Contact Francesca Hodges at [email protected]. Tweet her at @fh0dges.