A sun-drenched Spring evening at The Southbank, and I’m making my way to the perfectly sized, extremely comfortable Queen Elizabeth Hall.
It takes all of about two seconds from when Laura Marling takes to the stage and commences the set with new number, ‘Walk Alone’, for the tears to start streaming down my face. This always happens when in this enchanting young woman’s company – I become embarrassingly overcome by emotion. Since first hearing Alas I Cannot Swim, I have sought solace in the raw, edgy beauty of her dulcet tones during tough times.
Although I manage to compose myself, I remain completely blown away by Laura Marling’s emotive conviction for the entirety of the hour and a half long set. Whilst some critics seem to be making a fuss about Marling ‘going electro’, I don’t see what the problem is: she may have swapped a violin or two for some amps and drums, but what remains is her immaculate guitar-playing skill, alluring crystal-clear vocals and that sweeping emotive power that will cast you under its spell without fail.
Accompanied by walking double bass, an electric guitar and drums for most songs (save an incredibly moving rendition of ‘Goodbye Old England’, which Marling plays solo with an acoustic guitar), the Hampshire born singer portrays her grittier side with new material, with bluesy riffs, slide guitar and thumping percussion, perhaps inspired by her time spent in America.
As we’re treated to a large snippet of Marling’s last album – with ‘Take The Night Off’ ‘Once I Was An Eagle’, ‘You Know’ and ‘Breathe’ played together as a collective in the same order that they appear on Once I Was An Eagle – each song flows seamlessly into the next with smooth serenity, and it remains impossible not to lose yourself in the emotion-filled splendour of this prolific young woman.
Tracks such as ‘False Hope’ are delivered with gritty resentment, and ‘Strange’ instantly grabs your attention with its subtle, driving power alongside a frantic strumming that keeps pulses racing, as Marling switches seamlessly between sultry, angst-driven spoken word vocals and her incredible angelic grace.
One noticeable absence throughout the set, however, is the abundance of heart-rending, sweet-as-honey soprano that we so often associate with Marling, as sung phrases are often replaced with spoken word vocals; but I can’t help but feel that this is done for effect, to fit in with her new ‘electro’ style, rather than because of any loss of vocal range.
Perhaps it’s for this reason, too, that she chooses not to play anything from her debut, Alas I Cannot Swim. Admittedly, I’m a little disappointed I don’t get to hear ‘My Manic And I’, but I’ll forgive this slight omission, as the material that Marling does treat us to is absolutely mesmerising.
From the gentle, folky charm of classics such as ‘Rambling Man’ to the embittered rage and impassioned zeal of ‘Master Hunter’, Marling continues to captivate each and every one of us. As her sound develops with each album, she proves she’s able to keep evolving and maturing whilst keeping consistent the things that matter.
Closing the set with the bittersweet beauty of her new album’s title track, ‘Short Movie’, Marling has once again left me utterly enchanted, in a state of inspired awe (and in need of some tissues).
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