Watching Laura Marling perform is an absorbing experience as she retains a knack of holding you to every note, breath and lyric. Maybe the deadpan static steely delivery plays a vital role alongside a meandering vocal style effortlessly floating around the breadth of the scale. The ability to transfix an engrossed audience, even in a four figure mainly standing rock venue, is a testament to an alluring appeal which continues to garner widespread praise from scribes, many of whom are partial to a little poetic waxing.
It was a Birmingham return to the O2 Institute for Laura, almost two years from the moment when she played the venue in the midst of promoting 2015’s SHORT MOVIE album. If the house was almost full on that occasion, this time the sold out signs were up with a similar situation of a brand new record to present. SEMPER FEMINA had been only released a matter of days before this show, which was slotted in the middle of a run of UK dates.Not a single moment was wasted in turning to the new material with Laura reeling off eight songs from this record in the set’s early parts. Any element of risk evaporated as the new songs bedded in remarkably well. Laura did acknowledge this initial barrage of the unfamiliar, but there was serial faith in her judgement.
Starting with new album’s focal track ‘Soothing’, a mood of artistic tranquillity settled in, aided and abetted by a five piece backing line up ensuring the soundtrack was executed with utmost precision. Not averse to appearing solo, Laura did a mid-set stint unaccompanied, with a sheer equilibrium of balanced majestic effect to when in the company of the backfield of twin guitars, percussion and a pair of backing vocalists.
Apart from the aforementioned opening track, ‘Wild Fire’ and ‘Nothing, Not Nearly’ impressed as much in the live format as the early spins of the new record. The inter-song audience enthusiasm grew with the more popular back numbers, which is now growing to the extent that the current release is her sixth album. Remarkable output for a twenty seven year old, but in line with an artist already off into the distance as one of this era’s most prominent singer-songwriters. You can take your pick of highlights from the second part of the set, with no doubt equal praise for songs such as ‘Darkness Descends’, ‘Once’, ‘I Speak Because I Can’ and ‘Sophia’ from the assembled masses.
In truth there was not a single below par moment in the encore-less eighty minutes that Laura spent in the spotlight. Capturing this performance in an isolated mind enabled the true beauty of her music to flourish and prosper. To witness such a mesmerising experience in a pin drop environment was a treasured treat. Whether you view Laura Marling from a folk, indie, alternative or an increasingly Laurel Canyon influenced perspective, the joy of losing yourself in a literary melange of predominately acoustic and occasionally electric is a privilege to find.