Follow Us on Twitter

Laura Marling: Caught live ahead of London date (2010)

Laura Marling

Feature by Sue Wilkinson

GOLDEN girl Laura Marling strides onto the Newcastle stage with her band, looking like she means serious business at the start of her latest UK tour (2010).

Gone are the golden locks and ‘pretty-pretty’ image… replaced by natural brown hair tied severely in a top knot, low-key jeans and plain blouse.

But the emphasis is on the music, not the image – and it’s clear that this tour is all about establishing Marling as a serious, ‘mature’ artist.

“Laura, we love you,” cries a guy at the back of the venue, resulting in a ripple of polite ‘oohs’ and ‘aarghs’ from the quietly appreciative sell-out crowd on this, the first leg of her UK tour.

The fans have come to worship at the church of their favourite singer-songwriter whose rise into the musical stratosphere beckons following the success of her new album, I Speak Because I Can.

Laura Marling has become the fresh-faced cover girl of the national indie music press – and everybody wants a piece of her.

Marling has come a long way in a very short time. She’s left behind the 17-year-old girl-next-door image, maturing into an adult indie icon and taking up the mantle of queen of carefully-crafted, lyrical songs.

Still only 19, her poetic and complex lyrics reflect a maturity far beyond her tender age, but then Marling has always been ahead of her time.

So what can fans expect when Marling hits London for her sell-out gig at The Palladium on April 25?

She’s touring with a band but predictably plays half of the set solo with her trademark acoustic guitar.

During the solo section she revisits an old favourite, a beautifully delivered version of Neil Young’s Needle & The Damage Done. Goodbye England (Covered in Snow), an evocative song about her dad’s passion for Hampshire in winter, is performed with heartfelt emotion and warmth to melt the hardest of hearts.

There’s a couple of new songs, including a chilling unnamed track which audiences described as sounding ‘filmic’, likening it to the soundtrack of Twilight!

The four-piece band join her at the beginning and end of the set, framing the performance and adding depth and complexity to the songs, with cello, guitar, keyboard and drums enhancing the musical mix.

Devil’s Spoke and Rambling Man make for a lively opening before Laura launches into Ghosts, the single that made her reputation. The performance is as haunting as ever and a distinctive chill runs down the collective spine of the audience.

The band cluster around Marling like an extended family and it’s clear that Laura enjoys their collective presence.

“I’ve always been incredibly lucky in touring with friends,” she says. “As a solo artist it’s incredibly important that I have people to tour with – a family on the road. We all love doing this and want to do it forever.

“At the end of the day it’s all about playing songs – and that’s it.”

Laura is the first to admit that she’s not “a natural performer” but her lack of theatricality is more than compensated for by her gorgeous songs, haunting vocals and accomplished acoustic playing.

She radiates authenticity and honesty, values that are so horribly absent in many artists that populate the current music charts.

Marling’s time has come and it’s clear that over the last two years she has redefined herself, moving away slightly from her folksier origins and aligning herself closer to acts like Bon Iver, Will Oldham and Andrew Bird.

The delicate, fragile teenager has blossomed into a dynamic artist with greater assurance and complexity.

Polite and polished, the live set is full of delicate touches to make fans swoon – even if they aren’t leaping up and down in the aisles.

There are echoes of Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen as well as shades of Elliott Smith and Americana artists such as The Low Anthem. But most of all, Marling is her own woman, an outstanding talent with some of the most beautiful songs you’ll hear all year.

Towards the end of the gig, Laura says she’s never understood encores, declaring that the band is always embarrassed by them. Two final songs, including a wonderful Alpha Shadows, leave the crowd on a high before the golden girl slips into the night and disappears in the blink of an eye.

Expect no frills but plenty of musical thrills during an inspirational night of music from one of Britain’s finest young songwriters.