Friday, 13 June 2008
Laura Marling in church
"Cross your fingers, hold your toes, we're all gonna die when the building blows". We're part of a loyal group of followers watching Laura Marling singing, in church, on Friday the 13th, that "You're no God".
A simple plan, to meet before the gig, which somehow had a couple of us drinking on the pavement outside the Red Lion behind the church and the others dining Italian in Piccadilly.
Anyway, we all met in the line and were able to link ourselves with the tickets. St James is the church with the little market outside it most days, across the road from the Royal Academy and le Meridien. The queue of people snaked outside of the church grounds and along part of Piccadilly.
Inside, the pews filled fast and we moved from downstairs to the gallery where we grabbed seats with a pretty good view. First up was the accomplished Mumford and Sons, which is a separate band formed from parts of the group that accompany Laura Marling - confusingly it was billed as Melody and Me, so maybe its one of those collectives with rotating band members? Harmonies, plenty of varied folky instruments and a strong five number set. Short pause before a second support band, with plenty of enthusiasm although perhaps not quite the same musicality as the first group.
Laura had been sitting out front for the first act but had sidled into the backstage area during the second act and sure enough, after a short pause for candles to be lit, Laura took to the stage beginning with solo acoustic numbers before being joined by a varied selection of band members.
I've listened to 'Alas I cannot swim', Laura's first haunting album, quite a few times, and found the live versions both precise but still suitably different from the album. Laura's lyrics are quite dark and suggest a life which has felt death's breath and a few unusual encounters. The album is a sort of song cycle with an emotional arc in it like an 'olden days' concept album.
One can't help thinking that the themes of relationships, death and crossings simply provide an initial slightly buried "X marks the spot" from which to project forward other themes in later work. A few new tracks in the set suggested that there's plenty of ideas musically and lyrically in what one assumes to be a busy mind.
Overall a good example of a performer and friends who can just play and sing live well without too much electronica to aid them. An interlude about walking around a graveyard in Birmingham added to the intrigue of some of the lyrics and reinforced my thoughts of a negative image of Emily Strange.
Laura seems to spend time inside her songs when on stage. Aside from the between song chatter, she sings in a manner which often looks to the floor rather than to the audience. The songs are strong, but its not always easy to tell the demeanor of their enigmatic singer.
Here's a fabchannel version of the recent Paradiso gig in Amsterdam.
I am honest now, not a shouter,
I am reformed, forgiven and reborn.
And you're been busy but you've missed me
And I plagued you mind.
You will never go outside,
You will never go back to being blind.
I need shine, I need shine, I need shine,
Step away from my light, I need shine.