Laura Marling is 25 years old, she has been writing music for around 10 years and with her return to Australia to play as part of the Melbourne Festival, we are reminded what true talent and artist dignity mean in a world that is fickle with a lot of, well bullshit. Having released her debut in 2008, Alas, I Cannot Swim at the geriatric age of 18, her latest album, Short Movie is both accomplished and mature and tonight, Laura Marling, yet again proved her worth as a wonderfully talented songstress.
The Hamer Hall is a special place and tonight as we sat with anticipation in my excellently chosen seats in the circles, I did my usual look around to take in the almost overbearing grandeur of it all. For those who are not from Melbourne or who have not had the opportunity to be seated here, the design and acoustics are something quite special. The sediment inspired wall design, the stalactite inspired lights that delicately hang from above, I thought, what a perfect venue for this talented London las. This is the 4th time that I have seen Laura so I was not expecting any surprises but a night of beautifully sung tales and for the record, by way of “Las” reference, I feel this is earnt from our rather successful three dates together.
With an 8pm sharp start, this was more a “concert” as opposed to a “gig”. Anyhow, dead on eight, a young man shuffled to the stage and commenced tapping away at a few guitar pedals, hitting a snare drum in odd timing while strumming oddly progressed guitar chords and blowing into what seemed a piccolo. I was quick to figure out, it could only be DD Dumbo. A very talented guy who uses recording pedals, delayed effects and the like, to layer his instruments into rather interesting rhythmic songs. When I first saw DD Dumbo play a few years back, I did find him fascinating and original, there is no denying his talent. Tonight as I watched this talented “artist” play out a handful of tracks, I couldn’t help but think, watching DD Dumbo play is like watching a magician. You see the tricks once or twice and you still say “WOW” but after the 3rd time, you pretty much know what you are going to get. Before fans of DD go all mad on me, I am not saying he isn’t talented but it just doesn’t feel memorable after a while. His voice is powerful and capturing, reminiscent of Jeff/Tim Buckley and Sting, there is just something that I find a little tiresome and old hat, he really needs to knock out some catchy tunes to sustain a following.
Without further ado, an excited but expected polite applause encourages Laura to the stage who rather quickly strums through a 10 minute powerful saga of Take The Night Of. A nice warm up for the band, for the audience and those little fingers of Laura’s.
Tonight’s set list was a careful selection of tracks taken from each of her albums and after a handful of “warm up” and some of her more darker songs, Laura acknowledges the audience with her traditional banter of graciousness before heads down and right back into Short Movie, a brilliant single from the same titled album.
There is something strange with Laura’s guitar playing, I often can’t help that she hits peculiar notes that don’t always sound right, in her strive to reach the perfect pitch in her voice. With such vocal talent, right or wrong, her voice fills the auditorium perfectly effortlessly but something that I just had to get off my chest. Yes I am a big fan!
Some of the highlights tonight were the covers played, in particular a personal favourite of hers Do I Ever Cross Your Mind by Dolly Parton, a sweetly short song that reminds me of the wonderful song writing ability of early Parton and the influence that Parton must play on Marling’s work.
Tonight Marling was supported by two fellow musicians and their chemistry was a good balance, the banter between each of them between a few tracks was polite, slightly sarcastic and rather funny, particularly when we are enriched with the story of the drummers bum crack. Laura equally found it entertaining, not to mention the joke that was cheekily told by the guitar player. The joke sadly fails me now.
Highlights tonight for me where Goodbye, England sang so fragile and honestly, it is the one song that could almost bring tears to my ears, and heard live it nearly does just that. Sophia is one of her strongest recorded tracks to date however live it just doesn’t seem to hold its strength, it sounds light and a little empty but with the recorded song in our heads, it still gets greeted with a rapturous applause.
Before heading in to the last 2 tracks of tonight’s set, Marling reminds those punters who have not seen her live that she does not do encores, she doesn’t feel cool enough to do them, apparently. So after a little bit of final funny banter about the whole concept of encores, she strums the chords to one of her biggest songs, Rambling Man and ends with How Can I, before offering a polite nod and then exits stage right with her band quickly behind her.
A night of calmness, sheer talent, a few honest mistakes but some very happy and satisfied faces. Thank you Laura.