REVIEW: Laura Marling – Waterfront Hall, Belfast
Beginning her career in music at the young age of just sixteen, singer-songwriter and guitarist, Laura Marling, now twenty-five and still a young artist, has spent so many of her formative years within music.
Personal growth is undoubtedly reflected through a music catalogue that can boast of five albums in just under a decade of musical activity.
Associated most prominently with ‘nu-folk’ and acoustic music from her first albums ”Alas, I Cannot Swim” and “I Speak Because I Can” her latest album “Short Movie” marks an undeniable development from her folk-infused, acoustic beginnings, somewhat unexpectedly exploring an overall heavier sound that prefers the electric guitar more than the acoustic.
Beginning the night as support was Louisiana born, Old Crow Medicine Show member and singer-songwriter, Gill Landry. He entered the stage without a word and jumped right into “Funeral In My Heart” the first song off his new album suitably named “Gill Landry”. His simplistic, acoustic mellowness was the perfect pre-cursor for an audience of Marling fans. Although perhaps a song that includes the lyrics “Why do all good things have to die” threw the audience in at the deep end from the onset, he picked up straight after with the fast-paced, “Never Coming Here Again”. With strong, irresistibly husky vocals coupled seemlessly with finger-picking guitar solos that punctuated his set throughout, the sheer talent of Landry feels starkly obvious. The addition of violin brought into the latter part of his set lent an emotional depth that complimented the rawness of his acoustic skill. Not only this, but the transformation from an expected one-man set into collaboration with his violinist on a second mic made “Waiting For Your Love” into a duet that could rival Damien Rice and Lisa Hannigan but with an undoubtedly country/folk twist.
However, the song that really made the set something to remember was “Take This Body”. With a simplistic guitar riff that brought attention to the intensity of the lyrics, this was only built upon by the addition of the double bass and drums brought in for the chorus. Taking the second part of the song, Marling unexpectedly and casually stepped out on to the stage. She sang with a quiet intensity that has you hanging on to each word, leaving you wanting to hear more, yet inevitably the chorus came along –“So take this body babe, and hold me tight. Give me more than flesh and bone” Marling and Landry make an emotionally fuelled collaboration seem effortless but intimate, as if you’re simply witness to a particularly special late night jam session between friends.
Marling’s own set had for its backdrop, a picture of a desert that varied from light to dark throughout the night, representative of emotional highs and lows that make Marling’s music so notable. Getting her show off to a particularly intense and if not slightly long-winded start, she combined “Howl” from her newest album with“I Was An Eagle”, “You Know” and “Breath” all from her fourth album. This combination showcased not only stamina but development upon her vocal skill. She showed a great deal of vocal variation ranging from calm, controlled almost quiet vocals at the beginning of “Howl” to the loud, declamatory “I will not be a victim of romance, I will not be a victim of circumstance” from “I was an Eagle”. Indeed, this combination of such different songs with moments of musical highs and lows exposed the candid parameters of human experience related within her lyrics.
Up until this point a word hasn’t been said to the audience, Marling utters a quick hello and jumps straight into her next song “I Feel Your Love” from “Short Movie” at this point it becomes evident that this is going to be an evening focused determinedly upon music. The heavier rock influences of her new album come out within this second , fast paced song. Following this up with one of her more popular new offerings, “How Can I” this is a song that retains its folk influences showing that despite her musical development, Marling has not let go completely of the genre she is so associated with. Yet, the vocals again are the most notable part with the infectious and smooth chorus of “How will I live without you?”
At this point there has been a favourable mixture of her old and new styles, showing that rather than an artist that has changed musically, Marling is an artist that is simply showing the ambitious musical range that she is capable of. Yet with an audience member shouting out “Do you have any banter?” the lack of conversational interaction has evidently left the her fans wanting. Simply replying with “Have you been to any of my shows before?” this purposeful focus upon delivering her show as a singer/musician rather than an entertainer is a clear feature expected from a Marling show. Beginning the eagerly awaited “Rambling Man” however, she stops abruptly, remembering some “banter”. This is the fact that she actually wrote “Rambling Man” when she was in Belfast. This provided a light-hearted counterpoint to an evening that has so far been musically intense. The folk infused “Rambling Man”, one of Marling’s most famous songs with the lyrics of “Let it always be known that I was who I am”, garnered the biggest engagement from the audience thus far. For many, this song would have sealed an overall interest in her music.
Marling is sure to throw in many of her early songs, not simply promoting her new album, but the show takes an undeniably heavy turn with offerings such as “False Hope” and “Master Hunter.” These more fast-paced songs reflect an edginess to her music that contrasts with the more modest offerings such as “Rambling Man” Indeed, with lyrics such as “You let men into your bed, they don’t know you well. They can’t get into my head, they don’t have a hope in hell” and fast singing that is at points, dare I say, Alanis Morrisette-esque, Marling again resists any easy categorisation as simply a folk artist. Yet, it cannot be denied that many members of the audience would have been there expecting a night consisting wholly of folk and easy listening acoustic.
Unexpectedly, one of the most enjoyable songs of the night is a song called “Daisy” a song that didn’t make it on to her new album but that Marling feels “Maybe should have”. It is a song that differs quite a bit from the heavier music on her new album with a definite folksy feel. Like much of Marling’s music the song feels almost as though she is simply relating a conversation or story yet somehow is able to make it intriguing. She wraps up the night with “Short Movie” – the song that takes the name of her album. It feels like the perfect song to end the night with the lyrics of “Who do you think you are? Just a girl who can play guitar” and “No I’m not gonna stop” Despite having no encore, Marling is an artist that successfully gives off the feeling that after almost a decade in music, she has still retained passion for it and it doesn’t seem likely to run short any time soon. Kaity Hall, GiggingNI.com