How did she phrase it? that it had been a weird year? or strange? As we sat on the edge of the stage watching the crowds disperse Hg and I realised that yes, it was indeed only a year since we’d first seen Laura Marling play, at the memorable event we now refer to as the gig in the gutter where she took to the street outside the Soho venue having been barred from playing after the management discovered she was not yet 18 years old.
Well, she’s 18 now. Still gamin, but oh what a difference a year has made. The voice has grown, matured, mellowed, gained immeasurably in confidence, and so has she.
While still obviously painfully shy (there were several self-deprecating references to her inability to “banter”) the full-on touring schedule, both national and international, has strengthened her stage presence. She was backed on about half the songs by the new “team Laura Marling” – keyboards (Pete Roe), violin/ukelele (Phil Renna), bass/double bass (Graeme Ross), percussion/accordion (David Sanderson) and, on a couple, a backing singer called Emma – but whether alone or surrounded she was, gracefully, in control.
Both Hg and I had, it transpired, been worried that the gig might suffer from end-of-tour ennui, material polished to beyond perfection and/or delivered with the lack of zest which comes from repetition and over-familiarity. But no, it was quite the reverse. Not only were the album tracks fresh and zingy both in delivery and arrangement, there was a wealth of new material, “as new as songs can be” she explained while apologising in advance for any roughness. One, Hope in the Air saw her putting aside the familiar guitar and accompanying herself on the banjo.
Lyrically the new songs seem to be returning to the darker places from whence much of her early material came, but from her position of greater depth and experience. I continue to be impressed (to the point of slack-jawed awe, quite frankly) by Laura Marling’s prodigious talent which shows every sign of continuing to develop. I can’t wait for the second album.
* Evening Standard review of the (previous night’s) Scala gig on 11 November;
* The Guardian review of that same gig;
* Interview on ClashMusic.com;
* the rest of the pictures (no, I’m not going to moan about my camera still being broken yadda yadda).