Laura Marling’s Union Chapel Live-Stream Achieves An Unusual Degree Of Intimacy

An engaging, moving performance from one of our finest songwriters...

On a rainy Saturday evening Laura Marling played an exclusive one off gig at London’s iconic Union Chapel. This solo gig was different in that the audience were attending virtually, via a pay per view livestream. Laura chose to support two charities: The Trussell Trust and Refuge. Fans were asked to donate money to those charities when buying tickets. On the same day, Laura also played a show for her North American fans.

In the UK, live shows as we know them are at a standstill due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It is not yet deemed safe to attend them in this current climate so live streamed shows are an innovative way for artists and fans alike to maintain a connection.

Many gigs and concerts have had to be cancelled and this has led to artists being creative with how they connect to their audiences. For example, Bastille frontman Dan Smith has been streaming performances (via Instagram) from his bright green living room where, on one occasion, he changed the words to Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’ to include the lyrics: “Please wash your f*cking hands”. Lizzo and SZA hosted a 45-minute meditation class. Meanwhile, Led Zeppelin allowed fans to stream their ‘Celebration Day’ reunion concert film (filmed at their 2007 O2 Arena, London show) for free last weekend (May 30th – June 1st).

Laura Marling’s show was mesmerising. She played songs from her latest album ‘Song For Our Daughter’ and also her previous album ‘Semper Femina’. It felt incredibly intimate, which suited her songs and performance style perfectly. At times, it was as though you were sat in the pews of Union Chapel itself.

Interestingly, there was an air of anticipation and excitement right before ‘doors’. The same feeling you would get when waiting to enter a live show. Dressed casually in a turtleneck sweater and jeans, Laura opened with ‘The Suite’ and you could hear her delicate yet flawless vocals echoed in the empty Union Chapel. From your screen, you could also see her singing in the spotlight against the backdrop of the chapel’s beautiful stained glass windows. Her show offered solace in a time when things are kind of crazy and everyone is more or less mentally drained. Watching her show and being engrossed in live music for the first time in a long time was so calming.

Laura’s songs are heavily laced with elements of storytelling such as ‘Daisy’, ‘Held Down’ and ‘Alexandra’. They are also emotive with so much feeling behind them. ‘Song For Our Daughter’, the title track from her latest album, is about what she would want to say to her imaginary daughter. ‘Strange Girl’ was one of the more upbeat numbers from the set. ‘Once’ was a heartfelt number and you’d be forgiven for shedding a tear during this song.

Laura’s songs were so perfect for the venue At one point she even sings, “Holy light shines on the things you have done” which seems fitting to sing while in the Chapel. ‘Goodbye England’, like every song, was a highlight. Every track was magnificently performed in Laura’s stripped back style. ‘Once’ was the last song of the set and, once it had ended, Marling walked off the stage and into the darkness, leaving us wanting more.

As far as livestream performances go, Marling nailed it and showed us exactly how it’s done. Just to play Devil’s Advocate, there’s something to be said for the convenience of a livestream gig. It just makes life so much easier. No queuing for hours, no messing about with transport and hotels, and you don’t have to pay London prices for drinks or get beer spilt on your shoes. Having said that, how else are you supposed to get to the barrier to make eye contact with the lead singer of your favourite band?

While livestreams may never be able to completely replace gigs, there’s definitely potential for them to exist as an alternative form of entertainment and they are, without a doubt, a brilliant substitute for the moment.

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Words: Narzra Ahmed
Photo Credit: Joel Ryan

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