O2 Academy 25/4/15
by Stephen Butchard
Laura Marling is not exactly what you would call a pop star. If that much wasn’t clear from her vulnerably honest lyrics that shatter the commercial image of what a female musician should sing about, then her live sets may make things more than apparent. During Gill Landry’s rustic support set, Marling strolls on stage, bobs her head at the audience casually, and then delivers a verse with so much grit that it leaves the rest of Landry’s material feeling rather campy. This is not to diminish Landry’s talents in any way – it’s just that Marling is Jesus in comparison.
Marling’s set begins patiently, as she takes the crowd through the first suite of her darkest and most personal album ‘Once I was an Eagle’. Her cracked, husky tone is matched with droning, upright base and sparse, shimmering guitar notes. It’s a chilling moment of reflection; a calm before the storm.
‘Take the Night Off’ grows with ascending guitar passages, transforming into a chaotic beast, through reverb soaked guitars and smashing drums. The song eventually crumbles and dissipates, as the audience are left alone with Laura’s vocal. The suite continues to build, adding intensity with every new guitar passage and lyrical nugget. By the time it climaxes on ‘Breathe’, the audience are struggling to.
What makes the set so successful is the intimacy of Marling’s lyrics, which simultaneously feel human and otherworldly in their omniscient realisations. The set strips back to its rawest form on the back end, with Marling standing alone at her guitar. Simple plucked solo pieces echo around the academy, guided by Marling’s hushed voice which manages to capture the earnestness of her lyrics in a way many others can’t. The lyrics circle around the themes of love, introspection and the human experience. Though this is familiar territory for a singer-songwriter, Marling’s skill and wit as a lyricist give her performance a style that feels personal and wholly unique.
Her aura of cool completely vanishes on set highlight ‘Goodbye England’, during the line ‘I’ll never love England…” with drunken fans screaming out the word “SCOTLAAAAND”. Marling looks scared for a second, before collapsing into fits of laughter and reworking the song into a more Celtic-friendly version on the next chorus. As she finishes she thanks the crowd, “I like you guys. That was adorable.” It’s a brief moment of hilarity, but one that reveals a light hearted core inside the mysterious performer.
At the end of her set, Laura reveals that she isn’t “an encore sort of girl”, and anyone surprised by this point hasn’t been paying attention. Laura doesn’t want your love. She wants you to listen.document.currentScript.parentNode.insertBefore(s, document.currentScript);