Thursday, 8 March 2012

LIVE: Laura Marling - The Sage, Gateshead (5/3/12)

*Originally published for The Courier (7/3/12)

Going to The Sage makes one feel cultured; its two meandering amphitheatres are reminiscent of the Guggenheims’ architecture and it offers some of the most elegant views of the Tyne by night. Moreover, to see England’s foremost folk maiden, Laura Marling, perform here is a real treat. Tonight she is no maiden though, but a woman who has grown in confidence and bears the stories of someone twice her age.

Set-opener, ‘I Was Just A Card’, immediately boasts Marling’s ability to sway effortlessly between vocal keys; holding the polite and breathless crowd in utter awe. Her band, lingering upstage, gently support her melodies with burgeoning horns, jazzy snare shuffles and warm strums. It’s not until ‘Salinas’ that the Marling/band combination becomes truly comfortable, where the grassy banjo, celestial harmonies and yearning cello strings move to the rhythm of Marling’s earnest vocals.

Delving deeper into her back catalogue, Marling pulled out old crowd favourite, ‘Ghosts.’ The acoustics glistened in the wooden theatre, with crisp piano notes and a full band harmony bouncing around the audience. The girl who never once lifted her angelic head in her early performances now throws it up to the beam of the spotlight, as if to face her personal and religious dichotomies full on. Agnosticism is a recurrent theme in her debut album, and now she stands, feet a foot or so apart, ready to show the world that she’s worked herself out.

The most mesmerising moments are when the band allows Marling’s solo performances of ‘Goodbye England’ and rarities, ‘Pray For Me’ and ‘Flicker and Fail’. ‘Goodbye England’s’ guitar melody is delicately picked by Marling, full of its gorgeous glottal stops, her head tilted to the side as if recalling the romance of that winter’s day.

Where ‘Sophia’ never quite reaches its peak, ‘Rambling Man’ and ‘I Speak Because I Can’ compensate by sounding astonishing live. The former sees instruments chatter and roll beneath Marling & co’s earthy harmonies and the latter radiates every last morsel of energy; Marling lists off her regrets, never missing a note, nor a feeling, nor an opportunity to completely envelop you in her world. A truly unforgettable performance overall.

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