Twitter / Photography by Ry4n133

During the first lockdown, I found all I wanted from my music was as much noise as possible. I needed all of the maximalist electropop and shouty verses to scratch that itch in my brain calling for an end to daily monotony. Then, in April, Laura Marling’s album Song for Our Daughter was released. And its simple, stripped-back, yet powerful tales of love, childhood and break-ups soothed me. When presented with the opportunity, coming to experience the Mercury Prize-nominated album live was a no-brainer. The simplicity of her songs translated on-stage, as Laura Marling gave a no-frills performance at the Corn Exchange on the second show of her tour.

As first time Corn Exchange attendees, we were both left wondering whether the drink queue was usually this long, or whether there was an unlikely correlation between the demographic of Marling fans and bar-goers. Once sat down in the audience, the first thing I wrote was that Laura’s immaculately constructed playlist of Nancy Sinatra and Tom Waits created a sense of hopefulness in the air. Whether this was my subconscious remembering that Laura’s very own “Hope in the Air” was indeed part of the setlist for this evening remains to be decided. When Laura arrives, a figure in the distance, yet blonde hair instantly recognisable from the balcony, the audience is dead silent. The room fills with her crystal-clear vocals and plucks of acoustic guitar.

Twitter / Photograhy by matt_young

Her delivery is as packed with emotion as the room was with attentive fans. Laura segues through the first few songs of her set in a way where the casual listener wouldn’t be able to tell where one song ends and a new one begins. Luckily, the audience is undeniably absorbed. “I Was an Eagle” is particularly arresting; Laura’s conviction as she sings “I will not be a victim of romance” is heartening and heart-rending all at the same time. There’s a wink in her delivery when she quips “so your grandfather sounds like me”, halfway between singing and talking as she effortlessly slips between varying manners of tone.

Laura's performance of "Hope in the Air" is an exquisite display of her ability to grasp the audience's attentionFootage / Luca in Electric Blue

“We had the first gig yesterday so we’ve done the road test!”, Laura jokes to the audience in-between sections. “Famous last words”, she adds, under her breath, before continuing with her technically faultless set. Laura strides her way through from song to song, genre to genre. The influence of country music becomes clear in her vocal stylings during “Master Hunter”, red light engulfing her to match the aggression of the song. Laura’s performance of “Hope in the Air” is a highlight of the night, with melismatic vocals and flamenco-tinged guitar strums. Blue smoke slowly pulsates towards Marling as she belts her way through the Shakespearean-influenced track.

"The performance highlights Laura's affinity for creating an atmosphere that matches each song impeccably"

Equally as captivating is “The Shadows”, an unreleased track that Laura treats us with. The performance highlights Laura’s affinity for creating an atmosphere that matches each song impeccably, utilising a single shadow of a mannequin propped up in the corner of the stage to convey the emotions behind “the shadow that she left on my heart”. Bright pink lighting accompanies the first real upbeat moment of the night, in “Sophia”, as Laura transitions into livelier rhythms. 

At some point in Laura’s twenty-one song set, my energy begins to lull. The introduction of more songs from Song for Our Daughter towards the end of the set was the revival my enthusiasm needed, with the audience’s chanting of the callback vocals in “Held Down” proving to be most heart-warming. “Say what you mean”, she ends the song with, considerable conviction in her voice as she declares it. Following “Held Down” is what feels like the most nostalgic moment of the night, a performance of early single “Goodbye England (Covered in Snow)”. It’s a cold night, and I share Laura’s tendencies of romanticising the Winter season ahead. It’s quiet in delivery, yet loud in sentiment.

"Goodbye England" is an ode to how English winters best capture the beauty of the countryFootage / StuartJCooke1

Laura is the only figure on stage for the whole performance, and the only instrumental is her guitar. I was initially worried I would find such a still and empty stage dreary - the shows I have most enjoyed since live music has returned have been those with choreography or packs of people crowded on one stage. But just as with her album, I found the quiet comforting, finding the efforts to impart some visual intrigue towards the end of the show (neon square projections that felt bafflingly reminiscent of The 1975) distracting, instead preferring sole focus to be on Laura.

"At one point I found myself sat waiting for a vocal mistake to happen – one never came"

To describe Laura’s music and performance as simple is perhaps underselling it though. Another of my attempts to beat lockdown boredom was to follow one of her Instagram guitar tutorials. Needless to say, upon realising how complicated it was, I gave up within 2 minutes. At her show, Laura makes guitar playing look easy despite an evidently masterful level of skill, and I was amazed that all the sound was coming from just one guitar. Similarly, her vocals are immaculate, with no falter once. The entire performance was musically perfect, so if you like artists that are rough around the edges with lovable flaws, a Marling gig won’t suit. At one point I found myself sat waiting for a vocal mistake to happen – one never came.


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Before the last two songs, Laura makes sure that us concertgoers know that she can make us laugh as well as cry. “I don’t do encores, so think of this as the last song if you want an encore, and the second to last song if you don’t!”, she announces, smiling back at a wholeheartedly satisfied audience. The vulnerability of her music makes it feel like a conversation with an old friend. It’s a dynamic that feels intentional, and she accomplishes it with great ease.

It takes an enormous level of talent to make a 1,700-capacity venue feel so intimate. That's a skill that Laura assuredly has conquered.

Laura Marling performs the final show of her UK tour tonight at The Roundhouse, London, preceding a US tour next month. https://www.lauramarling.com/tour-dates