Arlo Parks Sydney review: Enmore Theater show

ARLO PARKS
Enmore Theater, August 13
★★★

British singer-songwriter Anaïs Marinho, 22, releases music under the name ‘Arlo Parks’, and if it sounds like an idyllic spot perfect for picnics with friends in the summer, then her music is the soft and dynamic soundtrack in the background, content playing second fiddle to the conversation.

It’s not that there’s anything wrong with that: music has always been about adapting to different situations – techno to annoy neighbors, jazz to sound cultured, metal for punching a hole in the wall – and creating a casual ambience for low-key moments certainly has its place.

Arlo Parks performing at this year’s Darwin Festival.Credit:Helene Orr

The trouble is when a musical mood is held rigidly to inertia, which is the case for much of this show: the sea of ​​heads can quietly dance to one windy song after another, but this means that no big waves occur, no boats are shaken.

The music itself, played competently enough by a four-piece band, comes a little too close to 80s easy listening, so smooth and inoffensive that even a fairly tame bass solo during Cola garners a disproportionate number of cheers from the crowd for looking “swaying” over everything else.

Parks herself sounds absolutely charming, relaxed, smiling and kind, with a beautiful, soothing voice that calms nerves rather than frays them. But coupled with music that’s too balanced for its own good, the results more often than not tend to veer towards the prosaic rather than the thrilling.

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It’s telling that the only moment of the night that borders on goosebumps or two comes during angel song when the band mostly takes a back seat, Parks sings with just a guitar for backing and proves her vocals are much more powerful and affecting without the funk-lite backing.

However, the vast majority of the hip crowd seem to love every bit of it, and during punchier, pop songs like carolina, Hurt and Too goodit’s a little easier to buy into the fervor and see how Parks won the Mercury Prize for last year’s debut album, Collapsed in the rays of the sun.

Even with only an increasing amount of vigor and energy from what came before, the final song Gently does a good job of blowing up the crowd, but does an even better job of summing up tonight with its title: a gig as sweet as a summer breeze that you can enjoy in the moment, but largely forget once that it is finished.