A Nike-clad Arlo Parks glided onto the stage of the Fox Theater on March 31, poised to perform a dreamy display of sonic silk. Under soft blue light, her stage was dressed in an amalgamation of band equipment, pots of blooming sunflowers and a black backdrop emblazoned with sunflowers and “ARLO PARKS” in bold white.
The 21-year old pop phenom’s childish grin and positivity were infectious as she kicked off her set with “Green Eyes,” a pleading reminder to trust and accept oneself. “I’m in a good mood tonight,” she grinned, her voice velvet smooth.
Parks’ set drifted on as she unveiled her hit “Eugene,” one of two singles off her debut album Collapsed in Sunbeams. “Seein’ you with him burns/ I feel it deep in my throat,” she sang, shutting her eyes as she gently coaxed out the envious lyrics with flowing gesticulations to match. Parks implored the audience, vicariously sharing the jealous weight of her wasteful, confusing love. A bright guitar riff transitioned into “Black Dog,” and the night’s motif of mental health returned.
Between songs, Parks’ soft charisma beamed like the red stage lights on her cropped bleached hair. The British singer repeatedly encouraged her band with animated dances and supportive glances, and she profusely thanked the crowd for their support in every respite between tracks. Her encouragement spilled into her next song, “Hurt,” where she tenderly reminded the venue that pain “Won’t hurt so much forever.”
Parks’ penultimate song was her most recent single “Softly,” which she lauded as her new favorite song to perform. With its bouncy beat and catchy chorus, it’s easy to see why, even though the track’s content echoes the pain that characterizes the rest of her discography.
Opening for the pop powerhouse Clairo was no easy assignment, but Parks passed with flying colors, putting on a display worthy of its own tour. Parks opened the crowd to a universe of tangled acceptance and hopeful acknowledgement of sorrow. Her vulnerability lit up the stage in an unusual display that, like an intimate daydream, was gone too soon. While motifs of melancholy dominated the evening, Parks was determined to end on a note of optimism. Warm with solace, she crooned, “You’re not alone, you’re not alone” in the appropriately titled final track, “Hope.”
Long after her exit, Parks’ enchanting melodies remained in the minds of every onlooker, her words dancing gaily in Air Jordans, loose basketball shorts and a t-shirt. The echoes of her voice lingered like the sweetness of a spoonful of sugar, a reminder of acceptance and romance.