Laura Marling at World Café Live, Philadelphia, PA, October 21, 2009 | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Laura Marling

Laura Marling at World Café Live, Philadelphia, PA, October 21, 2009, October 22nd, 2009

Oct 30, 2009 Web Exclusive
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While former cohorts Noah and the Whale are busy with a grand launch of their new album/movie project, London singer-songwriter Laura Marling has opted to quietly debut songs from her own forthcoming sophomore album, due in early 2010, in a series of intimate concerts in small East coast U.S. venues this fall. Two extraneous details threatened to ruin the mood on this particular night at World Café Live in Philadelphia. First, it turned out to be the same night that, just across town, the Philadelphia Phillies would take the National League championship en route to the World Series, a little detail not to be underestimated in the baseball-rabid cit of brotherly love. And second, just downstairs from where Marling was performing in the small, restaurant/bar venue known as Upstairs Live, modern rock also-rans Vertical Horizon were playing a gig at venue’s larger Downstairs concert space. Well, thank goodness for discerning ears and (mostly) soundproof walls, because Marling’s hour-long set demanded full attention.

Marling’s debut, 2008’s Alas I Cannot Swim, was a revelation in singer/songwriter terms, showcasing Marling’s classic singing voice and a precocious writing ability that belied her 18 years. However, on this night, Marling played only two songs from her Mercury Prize-nominated debut, instead leaning heavily on brand new material. Surprised at the number of people in attendancethe venue held approximately 100, with concertgoers packed into standing room-only spaces between the restaurant tables and the barMarling began with a sparse, acoustic lament including heavy, winter-themed imagery, titled “Goodbye England.” After another new song, Marling brought out a friend to accompany her acoustic-guitar folk with moody cello, immediately starting into the opening track of her debut, “Ghosts.”

Throughout the 11 songs showcased tonight, Marling’s voice was clearly the focus. With pipes that hark to the jazz singers of yore and a vocal control that, at times, reminded of Jeff Buckley, Marling kept the crowd rapt, despite the lack of recognizable material and the hushed quietude of the acoustic guitar-and-cello lineup. The new songs, nine of them, focused largely on introspective and depressed themes. In one song, Marling sang, “I apologize to the ones I love for leaving them when the sun comes up.” In another: “The gray in this city is too much to bear.” The last song of the set proper started with Marling’s singing in first person about a poor lonely wife whose husband left her.

Then, after leaving the stage to a chorus of cheers, Marling came out for one last song, thanking the crowd with an encore that she said was not planned. After miffing the first verse of the hidden track at the end of her debut, the one whose lyrics give the album its title, Marling subtly ended the night on a high note before slipping back into the venue’s wings. Tonight, Marling made a good case for her new songs. Album details are few at this point, but if this performance proves anything, 2010 should be a good year for Laura Marling.



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