Laura Marling Gives An Unconventional Performance

by Jessikah Hope Stenson

Laura Marling at the Lemmy. It sounded weird from the offset. Albeit, The Lemon Grove could easily be the name of a hipster café – one Marling would be very welcome in. Yet, weirdly, she was at home in the Lemmy, too. I guess that’s the magic of her voice – it transcends space… even mock school disco venues.

With no support act and no backing band, there were no real expectations for Marling’s set. All I knew was that it was not part of the promotional tour for Semper Femina. That’s already been and gone, sorry. Laura took to the stage with her four guitars, and from there, she could do anything she liked. She chose, wonderfully, to open with Wild Fire, a leading track from her latest album Semper Femina.

However, the majority of Marling’s set didn’t include her new releases. Nouel, Next Time and The Valley made appearances near the start, but that was it. No Soothing, no Nothing, Not Nearly. Instead, Marling played a range of old tracks.

While her new songs were well-received and exciting to hear for the first time, songs like What He Wrote, I Speak Because I Can, Goodbye England and Rambling Man were all beautifully performed and incredibly nostalgic. You could tell that every track on the set was someone’s favourite and something they never expected to hear live again.

Marling also ventured into two covers, performed back to back. The second was my favourite; Dolly Parton’s Do I Ever Cross Your Mind. It’s pacy and short, but in the small space Marling made it completely her own.

One of the biggest applauses of the night, however, came halfway through when she played the opening riff to her monster of tracks Take The Night Off, I Was An Eagle, You Know and Breathe. Performed fluidly, this was a quarter of an hour of mesmerising lyrics. More than that, you could tell how much emotion she poured into each song by how precise each note was.

Then, Once - a song that I, and many others, were obsessed with from her fourth album - was another of the highlights. Marling’s voice is flawless. There’s nothing more that needs to be said on it, even though I’m still going to try. She progressed with Daisy and stopped to explain that this B-Side from Short Movie is based on her friend, Amazing Daisy, who made a documentary about the housing crisis (check it out – it’s called Halfway). However, the song Daisy is about Daisy’s great-grandmother who was a prostitute in Dover. I know, what could be a more unique basis for a song?

I liked how Marling didn’t follow the rules. No new singles or requirements to play certain tracks. She also refuses to participate in encores. She asks the audience to imagine she’s left and come back on again to perform her final song. This defiance of typical performance norms is so completely her. It meant that her performance at the Lemmy was free, natural and (probably the best part) surprising.

Photo credit: When The Gramophone Rings.