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Arlo Parks @ El Club, Detroit, 9/29/21 (concert review by Paul S.)

London singer-songwriter Arlo Parks released her debut album Collapsed in Sunbeams at the beginning of the year, and I've been addicted to it ever since. She has a brilliant way of writing poetic, expressive lyrics and wedding them to catchy melodies and detailed, atmospheric productions. Her music is easy to listen to, but her lyrics are sometimes devastating when you pay attention, particularly when she writes about subjects such as depression ("Black Dog") and queer relationships ("Green Eyes"). It's no wonder her music has struck a chord with a lot of people this year. The album spent 3 months on top of the North American college radio charts, and she's already won several major awards, including the BRIT Award for Best New Artist and the prestigious Mercury Prize.

She announced her tour in April, at a time when concerts generally hadn't started back up again, and I hadn't even heard too many announcements for upcoming shows yet, so I was really surprised. I was actually on vacation at the time, so I made sure I bought a pre-sale ticket as soon as I got home, because there was no other artist I was looking forward to seeing more. I actually had to buy a smart phone for the first time because El Club now uses an app called Dice for tickets, instead of having will call or paper tickets, so I had no choice if I wanted to go to this show. After months of waiting, the day of the show finally came. It was only the second show I'd been to at El Club since they reopened, the first being Danny Brown's Bruiser Brigade, who actually did a free reopening show at the venue. I got up pretty close, maybe 20 feet from the stage. The opening band was Michelle, who consisted of 4 female singers who all traded off on vocals, and 2 guys playing guitar and keyboards. They sang poppy R&B songs over chillwave-ish beats, and there was some semi-synchronized dancing at some points, A little sloppy and glee club-ish, but definitely energetic. After their set, Arlo's band gradually took the stage and started playing an extended intro to the first song, "Hurt". Arlo came onstage wearing a Cramps shirt, as if she wasn't awesome enough already, although it made me wonder how many people in the audience even listen to the Cramps. Her band had a different energy than the recordings, but they certainly adapted the songs well for the stage, sometimes stretching them out with guitar solos and extended bits. Arlo's voice sounded lighter and airier than on her album, and she seemed to dreamily sway along with the music. She'd mentioned on social media that she felt sleepy before the show, and it was evident, but she certainly seemed appreciative, and the audience was excited to be there, which was especially obvious during songs like "Eugene", where the crowd's voices rose during the bitter second verse, and "Caroline", where Arlo encouraged the crowd to scream along with the chorus. She didn't play two of my favorite songs from the album, "For Violet" and "Bluish", although I can see how those might've been harder to arrange for her live band. Everything else from the album was played, as well as some of the highlights from her first two EPs, which are decent, although I think she was still finding her sound then and the material she wrote for her album is much stronger. She's somehow more chill and down-to-earth onstage than I expected, not that I was thinking she was going to be belting out her songs. It made for an interesting dynamic, but I was just happy to be there and hear her play all these songs I've had stuck on repeat all year, and be around an entire room full of people who felt the same way.

Additional photos of this show have been posted to my blog.


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