Why this gig?
Because Laura Marling is one of the finest songwriters of her generation. And she also puts on a fabulous show. I first saw her in the Conway Hall about five years ago. You’ll never see her in a venue that intimate again, but the Queen Elizabeth Hall (where’s she is playing for four nights) is a pretty good substitute.
Two support acts. First on are Goodbye Chanel. I remember quite enjoying them at the time. But it’s now ten days later and I can’t remember a thing about them. That’s probably not a good sign.
Then we have Gill Landry. Pretty standard folky-country stuff. But enjoyable.
Laura Marling has changed. Had I bothered to listen to her new album before going to the show, I probably wouldn’t have been as surprised as I was. Where once stood an acoustic guitarist playing slightly fey (but wonderful) songs about England, we now have a strident electric guitar and songs with a distinctly American flavour. It’s still wonderful, it’s just… really different.
She starts accompanying herself on guitar and slowly over the first song or two, the rest of the band join her. I say “song or two” as for the first twenty minutes of the show three or four songs blend seamlessly into one another. There’s not even a pause for applause. It all gets really intense. When the band pause for breath twenty minutes later, the applause is incredible.
After that things settle down a bit. Marling is never the most chatty of performers – preferring to let her songs do the talking for her – but tonight she is almost silent between songs. It’s only towards the end of the night when she feels she has to explain the (unrecorded) song “Daisy” that she says more than a few words. But with music of this quality, we don’t need introductions.
The band have obviously been chosen to reflect style of the new album and the set list is heavily weighted towards that album – we get nine of the thirteen songs from that album. There are also plenty of songs from Once I Was an Eagle and a few from each of the previous two albums. Only her first album is ignored completely. But the sound and the shape of the whole show has obviously been so carefull constructed that it’s easy to believe that the songs from that album just wouldn’t fit in.
One thing, however, hasn’t changed. Marling doesn’t play encores. She says that she tried it a few days earlier but didn’t enjoy it, so tonight we’re back to an encore-less performance. It’s a slightly strange affectation, and one that long-time fans are used to by now. But I can’t help thinking it would have been nice for her to come back and play something like “Ghosts” or “Tap At My Window”.
But that’s a tiny criticism. The show, as performed, is incredible. Easily one of the best shows I’ve seen this year. Probably the best so far. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that Marling is only 25. And she still gets better and better with each new album. If you haven’t seen her yet then you’re missing a treat and should pland to put that right as soon as possible.
The set list is on Setlist.fm.
All of these are from other nights on the Queen Elizabeth Hall run.