Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Laura Marling - The Institute, Birmingham Monday 27th April 2015

Sometimes it’s not a case of when you understand an artist but the fact that you have finally cemented the act of discovery. Over the last seven years this radar has been active in many places elsewhere while the Laura Marling phenomena exploded across the wider music world. However if there is still a little room to hop onto the curve, the experience of seeing her live show has made it the mission of 2015. To complement her spine chilling performance at a packed Institute, the continual playing of the new record SHORT MOVIE has been in danger of developing into an unhealthy obsession.

In these inter-connected times it doesn’t take too long to piece together an artist’s career and Laura Marling has certainly packed an awful lot into her still relatively young years. Five albums and countless tours in the spotlight has led to many witness her evolution which has now taken root into full blown plugged in electrification. This rounded and more complete sound etched into a venue full to capacity with the most respectful of listeners to roll out a captivating set of songs delivered by a prime and charismatic songwriter. The charisma may be slightly unconventional as it radiates from bouts of inertia but the aura demands intense fixation. Quite simply Laura Marling poured oodles of emotion into a stunning 85 minute set.

With a panoramic desert backdrop, a cultured sound, shades of Lucinda Williams in the vocals of a new song, the covering of a Townes Van Zandt number and touring with Gill Landry of Old Crow Medicine Show, there is more than a hint of Americana in the sound of Laura Marling. Whether this has always been present exists only in the perception of others but the effect of an extended stay in LA appears to have entered her veins. In the lyrics from one of her new songs, Laura aches ‘I’m going back East where I belong’, but seemingly with more than a little influence from her travels west.

Laura’s three piece backing band slipped effortlessly into a set list heavily leaning towards the mighty fine new album. ‘Worship’ and ‘Short Movie’ brought the curtain down with impassioned versions long after ‘Howl’ had launched matters in an almost coincidental low key solo style. ‘False Hope’, with its Lucinda Williams aural vision, proved the standout moment of the night, thus setting the challenge for her back catalogue to meet expectations when the process of full evaluation is complete. ‘Rambling Man’, ‘Goodbye England’ and ‘Master Hunter’ were three older tracks to impress with the latter getting a makeover in full rock proportions.

The motion of Laura’s stage presence exists in the swirling vocals and stirring lyrics rather than the physical format. Her natural shy persona is well documented and while it limits the spoken word, she did make a valid attempt to fill the unplanned tuning gaps. She was fully complimentary to opening act Gill Landry and even joined him on stage to sing backing vocals on a couple of songs. Gill was promoting his new solo album, a continuation of a recording career which runs alongside his work as a key member of the fantastic Old Crow Medicine Show. Gill’s thirty minute segment of pure strong storytelling Americana provided a solid base for the complete gig experience to materialise and Laura later asked the audience whether they had heard of Townes Van Zandt after playing a super version of ‘For the Sake of the Song’. There was definitely an affirmative nod in this quarter.

So this truly awe-inspiring gig and being totally engrossed in her new record has proved the catalyst for joining the Laura Marling appreciation society but a valid defence for the delay has to be all the independent artists championed while the radar was elsewhere. Anyway life is about the present which now ironically involves back catalogue investigation to complete the circle.




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