Tag Archives: Laura Marling

Laura Marling at ABC, 10/3/17

On this, the release date of her sixth album, Laura Marling returns to Glasgow for a sold out show at the ABC.

After a rapturously received performance at the Celtic Connections opening ceremony, Marling is back as part of a UK-wide run promoting Semper Femina – a collection of songs which loosely revolve around female exploration and how the artist has viewed it as the years pass.

It’s some of her most ambitious work, and it is an interesting prospect as to how this translates in a live setting.

Marling is a fiercely strong role model for young women, and the audience is predominantly female by some distance.

Through the Londoner’s transformation from initially breaking through as the poster girl of twee-indie, to the groundbreaking folk artist that she is today, her loyal fans have continued to support her development and they continue to be rewarded with consistently superb releases.

It feels like she’s been around forever, but Marling is still only 27, and she continues to break new ground with every step.

The songstress is greeted with loud whoops as she and her band enter the stage and begin the set with Semper Femina opener ‘Soothing’.

A departure from what could be termed as ‘classic’ Laura Marling, with its Bill Withers-esque bassline and veers towards an alternative lounge-blues sound.

It is notoriously difficult to keep a Glasgow crowd quiet on a Friday night, made even more of a task when playing new material (which the first half of the set is almost solely devoted to).

However, Marling does this with ease, particularly when the songs are of the standard of the likes of ‘The Valley’, with its dreamy harmonies, and the Ray LaMontagne inspired ‘Nothing, Not Nearly’.

This isn’t to say that everyone is hush-silent throughout.

As Marling starts to play ‘Noeul’, she asks for her guitar to be turned up, to which she gets a properly Glaswegian good-humoured response of “YES YOU FUCKING CAN!” from one of the more well-refreshed members of the audience.

 

It is once the new material is out of the way, though, that Marling and her band step up a gear.

The short solo section mid-set shows off her voice – THAT voice.

‘What He Wrote’ is exquisite, while the rare inclusion of b-side ‘Daisy’ is a welcome addition to the set.

An even more apt inclusion slotting alongside the Semper Femina material lyrically with it’s refrain of “a woman alone is not a woman undone”.

The likes of ‘Sophia’ and ‘Darkness Descends’ are given new life by her exceptional band – who are all required to speak to the crowd, resulting in random facts about kangaroos and Charlie Chaplin.

Marling gives her now-standard warning that she doesn’t do encores, before launching into a final, beautiful ‘Rambling Man’.

Marling and her band have the whole ABC in the palm of their hands throughout the 90-minute set.

Despite barely removing her gaze from the ceiling, outwith her interactions with her devotees, she is still as captivating a live performer as ever.

Semper Femina only adds to an already excellent and diverse back catalogue, and Marling has surely now cemented herself as one of our ever-dwindling national treasures.

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Words: Graham McCusker
Photos: Erin McKay

Celtic Connections Opening Concert with Laura Marling with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Declan O’Rourke, Lindsay Lou & The Flatbellys, Cara Dillon, Aziza Brahim, Rachel Sermanni and Adam Holmes, Karine Polwart at The Royal Concert Hall, 19/1/17

The 2017 Celtic Connections festival is opened with a brand new face to the festival – Laura Marling, the English singer songwriter of immense pedigree and commonly regarded as “the greatest songwriter of her generation” visits the festival for the first time to team up with the BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Jules Buckley.

With arrangements throughout the night by the immensely talented Kate St John amoung others, this was going to be a memorable night from the moment Karine Polwart’s voice breaks the anticipated hush of those collected before her.

With introductions from Roddy Hart as MC for and a message from Donald Shaw, organiser and Artistic Director of Celtic Connections, complete, the night starts with a wonderfully unique, half spoken, half sung address to Donald Trump on the day before his inauguration in the US.

Karine Polwart reminds us of his modest Scottish roots and his attachment to the piece of rock from where his mother left to find a new life in America, and in doing so, delivers the nation their 45th president.

‘Cover Your Eyes’ is a warning both to us seated in the auditorium and to Trump himself that he has a responsibility to cast away the unpalatable traits of the past and forge a new path of hope, and that we have the responsibility to hold him accountable in his every move, set the scene for a quote mesmerising night of emotion and beauty.

Her next song is a tribute to the 11- year-old girl Susan Maxwell, who whilst travelling home from her tennis lesson in the village of Coldstream, disappeared without trace.

‘Half a Mile’ is a story of the search for this little girl and the hope and desperation such a situation brings; “and the trucks still roll by…..” perfectly captures the image of a body lost by the roadside and never found.

Rachel Sermanni and Adam Holmes combine to bring us the “toe tapping part of the night”, a tongue in cheek remark from Sermanni as she finishes a stunning duet of the ‘Banks are Broken’ with the barest of accompaniment.

They finished their short set in magnificent form and to rapturous applause with Holmes leading on ‘Oh My God’.

Next up is Aziza Brahim who brings her West African, Cuban and Mexican influenced sound to the stage; the Spanish based Saharawian artist lights up the show with ‘Lagi’, a beautiful blend of vocal, drum and jazz infused guitar added to the eclectic feel developing in the hall.

Cara Dillon maintains the standard of excellence with her traditional Irish touch, more familiar to the Celtic Connections family, opting for simple flute and piano accompaniment, punctuating her first song and full orchestral accompaniment on the second.

Then to Lindsay Lou & The Flatbellys who, after a PA issue, which took the entire audience by surprise and quite obviously gave the band a start they could have done without, perform two wonderful songs typical of their bluesy roots bluegrass blend of American roots music, which wins the audience over with ‘Everything Changed’, and becomes the true “toe tapping” moment of the night.

And to finish of the first half of the night, we are treated to two wonderful songs from Declan O’Rourke and the endearing warmth of the Irishman is welcomed and embraced enthusiastically by the Glasgow audience.

‘Gallileo’ fills the auditorium like a film score and ‘Sleive Bloom’ finishes his short set, a story of late night travelling through the mountains and contemplation of life and its jarring moments.

And so to Laura Marling, with very little chat between her seven beautiful songs, she is forgiven the lack of dialogue as the content and emotion within each more than compensate.

Utterly mesmerising from start to finish, I am unable to take my eyes off this apparently fragile figure who delivers a vocal and lyric of such strength and honesty that I am not going miss a second of this experience.

Opening with a suite of four songs ‘Take the Night Off/I Was an Eagle/You Know/Show’, the blend and connectivity created by Kate St John’s arrangement for the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Marling’s fingerpicking guitar style fills the expectant and charged room.

With ‘Sophia’ and her cover version of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Avalanche’ being the highlights of the night, she engages momentarily with the audience before she finishes her stunning set: “In the couple of days I have been in Glasgow I’ve managed to read a little bit about your history, you all probably already know it so I won’t go into it, but you guys were proper rebels eh?….” and with a flutter of applause at this she then adds “…..This song is called ‘Goodbye England’;” cue laughter.

A most memorable night to kick of Celtic Connections 2017.

You can listen to part of the performance here on BBC3 http://bbc.in/2iV2GzU or look out for the televised version, which goes out on Sunday 29 January. Not to be missed.

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Words: Bobby Motherwell
Photos: Tim J Gray