Friday 9 March 2012

Laura Marling @ Hammersmith Apollo

Owing to the high profile Mercury Prize and Brit nominations and awards, you'd expect Laura Marling to be a much bigger figure in the public eye.  But it's clear, from seeing her live, that Marling is an artist who eludes fame.  Despite the size of the Apollo filled with eager fans, this had the feel of a much more intimate gig - she quietly walked on to the stage, took her guitar and declared shyly "Hi, I'm Laura" as if we didn't know already.

Stage banter clearly isn't Marling's strong suit.  Her talking was dry and she mostly ignored the heckling "I love you's!" and "marry me's!" from the audience.  Instead, laughs came from the introduction of the band, each stating an interesting fact ranging from hair product flammability, to chicken nuggets and a food replica Apollo spaceship.  Marling's cute and slightly weird sense of humour certainly came across with her interactions with both the audience and her fellow performers.

The music was the central focus of the gig (as it should be) and when Marling's mouth opened to sing rather than speak, her remarkable voice spread over the audience with a collective sigh.  Her pure higher register was released effortlessly, whilst her lower tones were full of quirky character to perfectly match the storytelling of her lyrics.  Stood crossed legged with face to the sky, her angelic voice was complimented by the delicate fingerpicking guitar.  The set consisted predominantly of songs from her recent album  'A Creature I Don't Know', but also included tracks from her past albums 'I Speak Because I Can' and 'Alas I Cannot Swim'.  Accompanied by a band of piano, drums, cello, flute and banjo, at times they overpowered her gentle voice and demeanor.  As such, the central section was the highlight - Marling performing quietly with just a guitar and her voice with spellbinding effect - "It's just you and me".

What was most refreshing was the old-fashioned feel of the gig.  With solely traditional, acoustic instruments there were no bells and whistles, no fancy screens or lighting, no electronic synths in sight.  Quite simply, the night consisted of beautiful songs performed beautifully by a modest and unassuming talent.

And just as she entered, with barely a bow or an encore, she was gone.