Arlo Parks at Théâtre Beanfield: A True Scream, Cry and Dance

“It's so cruel what your mind can do,” a deep-cut lyric sung by R&B and Soul singer Arlo Parks, has been one of many phrases from the artists’ discography that has vastly resonated with Gen Z’s complex lives. In pure honesty and comfort, Park’s music crafts hardships and catastrophe in a mosaic of connection to one’s body and mind, emphasizing a message of collectivity, originality and self-empowerment.

This past Tuesday, March 26th, Anaïs Oluwatoyin Estelle Marinho, most commonly referred to by her stage name Arlo Parks, left Montreal’s Théâtre Beanfield with a tranquil breath of rejuvenation. At only 23 years old, the West Londoner is currently on the North American leg of the My Soft Machine Tour following her venture across Asia, Europe and the United Kingdom. Bringing both her soothing sound and thoughtful poetry along for the ride, Parks’ tour is more of an immersive experience than it is an exclusive concert.

The singers' set fluctuated between soul-crushing ballads and strobe-attacking funk that brimmed with lyrical dissonance. During her night at Théâtre Beanfield, Park revealed, “Most of my songs are mostly sad. While this statement holds true to her discography, it is the lyrics of her work which illustrate hurt and grief rather than her art’s sound. 

At the hands of her band members, Sam Harding, Dani Diodato and James Fernadez a handful of eccentric solos enunciated Parks’ songs and creatively dispersed from the original recordings of her album. During her performance of the hit single, “Eugene”, Diodato mesmerized the crowd with a strung-out guitar solo, riffing alongside Parks and adding new harmonies to the track. Decked out in a Radiohead Gucci Little Piggy t-shirt, Parks spoke briefly about her love for the Alt-Rock band, explaining how she’d taken inspiration for her 2020 hit “Eugene", from their sound. “Eugene” alongside “Caroline” are two critical pieces of Park’s debut album Collapsed In Sunbeams. 

During her performance of “Caroline, Park’s audience was immediately infatuated with the passion she offered them. “Caaaarrrrolineee, I swear to god I’ll try, was screamed into the mic by the singer and howled by the audience, in sync. As the song reached its final chorus, lights dimmed, tension built, and the crowd promptly erupted as Park jumped off the stage in their direction, clutching onto the barrier bars as she held the hands of many transfixed fans. 

The fire that had risen was smoothly sedated by Parks’ seamless transition into a track from her  newest album, My Soft Machine. No audience member would have questioned the heavy breathing Parks’ endured from her hike back to center stage, as she effortlessly exhaled into “Impurities”. Throughout much of her set, Parks sunk into her own head, her eyes closed; it was clear she felt each syllable of every lyric she sang. The song captures the easy-listening ambience of Park’s genre, while simultaneously adding to her newest album's reflection on trauma and growth from hardship. Her performance of “Impurities” was a prime demonstration of how entranced she becomes in a performance of pure catharsis. 

With a comparable sound to that of UK singer-songwriter Corrine Bailey Rae, Park’s night at Thêatre Beanfield filled listeners with utter reassurance that lo-fi, tranquil pop music continues to exist amongst the crowd of mainstream trap beats. By the same token, Parks’ exuberant honesty and passion in her performance truly connected audience members to their own bodies and soul in seeing her convey such connection to her own being and emotional boundaries.