A room known more for bombastic punk rock, booming hip-hop and other rowdy shenanigans, 7th St. Entry made a surprisingly cozy and well-suited showroom Sunday for British buzzmaker Arlo Parks' chilled-out grooves and hopeful, healing songs.
Probably the biggest I-was-there kind of gig in First Avenue's little side room since Billie Eilish performed there in 2018, Parks arrived fresh off winning her homeland's prestigious Mercury Prize last month and the Brit Awards' breakthrough artist trophy in May. She could've easily played First Ave's six-times-larger main room next door instead.
There were other similarities to Eilish's arrival, and to Adele's equally undersized local debut at Theatre de la Jeune Lune. Now 20 (as Adele was in 2008), Parks first caught a viral buzz off recordings she made in her West London bedroom in her mid-teens. Many of her songs reflect the intimacy of that comfortable setting. She even brought along her journal of poetry to read from on Sunday.
Small-venue debut tours are usually calculated to either break in the band or get a young singer accustomed to the stage, but neither motive seemed to apply in Parks' hourlong set.
Her four-piece band was already tight and adept at emphasizing the different, subtle twists in her mostly slow- to mid-tempo, smooth, R&B-flavored folk-pop songs — from the opener "Hurt" (which sounded like the XX covering Sadé) to the encore singalong of her hit "Hope" (think: Lily Allen meets Jill Scott).
Parks herself came off as confident and charming. Her willowy, jazzy voice isn't loud or powerful, but in the small room its soothing and rhythmic qualities hit in an impactful way. Dressed casually in a long-sleeve, white Paccbet T-shirt, she danced and swung her arms to the grooves and often talked between songs.
Before plucking out her early, pre-fame single "Romantic Garbage" — the only tune of the night not featured on her lone album, "Collapsed in Sunbeams" — she recalled her aspirations while writing it at age 16: "My dreams are coming true, and you guys are a part of it," she sweetly summarized.
And then there was the nod to the local hero.
"Minneapolis has always been a mythical place for me because my mom is a massive Prince fan," she said. "I've been taking pictures everywhere I see his name."
Toward the end, Parks also gave a shout-out to the friend whose bout with depression inspired "Black Dog," one of the highlights of the night with its disarming lyrics and elegantly rising melodies: "She's doing much better now, which is a reminder the bad things don't last forever," she noted.
That was just one of several light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel moments in the performance that would've made any size room in 2021 feel intimate and comfortable to be in.
Parks will be back in Minneapolis on March 18, opening for Clairo at the Fillmore.