An absolute joy to witness
Laura Marling live at London pAlladium

The last night UK date of Laura Marling’s “I Speak Because I Can” tour was a fitting farewell to one of the country’s brightest songwriting stars. The gorgeous Palladium in London’s heart ensured every high expectation was met – and exceeded – and the strength of her burgeoning catalogue proved there was plenty of room for new to-be classics alongside gems from her debut album “Alas, I Cannot Swim.”

Standing nymph-like and precious in front of bland and slightly kitsch (and not in a good way) stage decorations, she was still that unassuming, modest Marling we all love but evidently more confident and comfortable in her own skin. She now combines a wealth of on-stage experience with her trademark, awkward between-song banter so that while endearing herself to the audience, she still hits the target with every guitar change.

The no-nonsense start to the show (“Devils Spoke”) saw Marling rollick into her new material, with exceptional backing from her band just a taste of what was to come. But before you can start thinking she’s grown a pair, her innocent face surveys the packed theatre and you hear a meek voice exclaim, “There’s quite a lot of you – which isn’t a bad thing.”

Second song, “No Hope in the Air,” is a live favourite she’s been testing out for a little while and again draws good applause. The slow build from acoustic to full band is a timely reminder of her vocal and instrumental skills, as images of sea shanties and old Irish drinking ballads flood the chorus of, “No hope in the air and no hope in the water/Not even for me, your life serving daughter” – much like “What He Wrote” later in the set.

“Blackberry Stone” was the first heart-tingling moment of Marling’s vocal expression – followed by ““Rambling Man” – where she sends chills up the spin with quick ascension to that lovely head voice of hers.

The empowering “To Be a Woman” flickers on a flamenco-style riff, while the more laidback “Made By Maid” further demonstrates her handiness on a six-string. In amongst the new tunes, fans were treated by her best known, “Ghosts”, as well as “Failure”, “Night Terror”, a brilliant rendition of “Alas I Cannot Swim” and “My Manic and I”.

Uncommon for Miss Marling in her days as a more recognised performer, she delved into the land of covers to give her flavour to Neil Young’s “Needle and the Damage Done”. Unusually, she got just halfway through this one before abruptly ending her rendition but what we heard truly warmed the cockles (as much as cockles can be warmed on subjects of drug dependence).

No encore neatly wrapped this hour-plus set and made it an absolute joy to witness. For a girl of barely 20, it’s wonderful to see her touching on elements of Irish, country, rockabilly and of course folk – just don’t call her a singer songwriter.

Words by Jen Wilson


View a full gallery from the gig HERE.

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