24th October 2011
Certain artists make the sort of music that demands grander surroundings than your typical grimy rock club, and if you’re familiar with any of Laura Marling’s work, you’ll know she’s among them. Thus, she arrives in Manchester tonight midway through a tour that has seen her playing exclusively in cathedrals, and fittingly too, this evening’s centuries-old setting proving the perfect environment for songs that belie Marling’s tender years, lyrically and musically.
The set leans heavily on last month’s new LP, A Creature I Don’t Know, with simmering opener ‘I Was Just a Card’ segueing surprisingly neatly into the experimental jazz-folk of ‘The Muse’, shuffling guitars and Americana-tinged vocals present and correct. The cathedral’s acoustics lend themselves particularly well to the chiming guitars of ‘Salinas’, whilst the dimly-lit gothic surroundings see set highlight ‘The Beast’ take on a life of its own, brilliantly underscored by menacing drums.
This is an intimate show for an artist who’s already attracted an avalanche of critical acclaim – including Mercury nominations and even a Brit award that had millions of Sun-reading X Factor fans scratching their heads and wondering “who?” – and Marling’s endearingly earnest persona, complete with giggling fits, lame jokes and an impossibly polite explanation of why she “doesn’t do encores”, certainly do nothing to detract from that feel. Perhaps the evening’s only disappointment is the lack of material from her finest record to date – only two tracks from last year’s marvellous I Speak Because I Can are aired – but it only serves to highlight Marling’s eagerness to try out brand-new material, with a couple of fresh tracks making the cut instead. With a work rate this diligent and songwriting talent that’s almost disconcertingly precocious, early critical suggestions that she is our generation’s Joni Mitchell are sounding less outlandish by the day.