Photograph by Katie Anderson
The lyrics “silence speaks for me” run throughout one of two new songs Laura Marling previews for us the grand and majestic Royal Albert Hall this evening. The statement sums up the songstress up entirely. Everything the 22 year old has achieved throughout her already impressive three album career has been carried out with precision, poise and a wonderful lack of any garish bravado. Perhaps the phrase the “music speaks for me” would be more apt, although far too direct and cliché.
Marling is not a born entertainer. She won’t play the piano with her feet or have rehearsed a fifteen minute long comedy set to distract the audience purely for entertainment purposes. If you’ve seen her live, you’ll realise there’s very little talk and from what she does say is nervously giggled and mumbled into a microphone with very little confidence but it’s exactly that which makes her endearing.
She tiptoes to the microphone and constantly tilts her head back to an uncomfortable looking position, almost as a defence mechanism. She even forgets the words to ‘My Manic and I’ half way through but jokes it off with the forgiving audience as she nervously laughs and apologises. She’s embarrassed by heckles and as two screechy teenage girls shout “WE LOVE YOU, LAURA” and quite boldly “WHERE’S MARCUS?” Marling cringes with humiliation and reveals in a witty way how ‘terrifying’ this all is. She represents what music meant before it was blackened by pyrotechnics, auto tune and The X Factor and is quite frankly, an underated national treasure.
Marling plays her latest album, A Creature I Don’t Know in its entirety for the London crowd accompanied by selected tracks from Mercury Prize nominees, Alas I Cannot Swim and I Speak Because I Can. In Marling’s shadow stands an exceptionally talented multi-instrumentalist band, whose haunting harmonies are brought to bear on tracks like ‘What He Wrote’ and the slower, lingering version of ‘Blackberry Stone’. As the band leave the intimate circular stage it feels somewhat like they’re throwing Marling to the lions, but she performs ‘The Beast’ and ‘Night After Night’ beautifully, reducing the audience to a deadly silence. Explaining how she “never felt so alone” the young artist looks exposed.
As Marling’s voice elevates way beyond its years her performance, in a venue as steeped in tradition as The Royal Albert Hall, is wonderfully fitting. She explains that this is the last gig she’ll be playing in a long time and the very last gig she’ll be playing with her band, leading us to wonder what her fourth album will have in store. The singer herself, whilst thinking to the future very much has her head in this evening and its clearly overwhelming nature, but then after tiptoeing into adulthood playing this grand hall would be a “little petrifying.”