Live review: Laura Marling

Largo, Los Angeles, Thursday February 4

[a]Laura Marling[/a] doesn’t do hollers and cheers. She doesn’t scream and go whoop whoop whoop like shouty drunk Americans. So it’s pretty funny to see her contending with an audience who do. “OHMYGOD LAURA!!!” shouts one frenzied wasted girl, in this intimate Hollywood venue, as Marling arrives onstage with her bearded band. “Hello,” Laura replies in neat clipped tones. “I LOVE YOU!!!” shouts the girl. “I love you,” deadpans Laura in return. Many audience members laugh.

She may have just turned 20 on this American tour – still not old enough to order half a lager at the bar – but in a young country, Laura Marling stands out as coming from the Old World. With smart trousers, the blonde hair now dyed a take-me-seriously brown, and her headmistressly demeanour, there are shades of Penelope Keith about miss Marling tonight.

“My husband left me last night,” she sings on [b]‘I Speak Because I Can’[/b], the title track from her forthcoming second album, and you almost believe her. On record, the song is gentle enough, a toothy, bluesy lament. Here it’s boombastic, swelling to fill the room with its strummed urgency. “[i]I forgave you your shortcomings and your childish behaviour[/i]” she wails, on [b]‘Hope In The Air’[/b], with real menace. “[i]There’s hope in the air and hope in the water/But no hope for me, your last serving daughter[/i]”.

Great though her band are, they seem to be here more for her benefit than ours. We are spellbound, pulled in by invisible strings, when they leave her alone for her solo section, where she sings a bulk of songs from the first album, 2008’s [b]‘Alas I Cannot Swim’[/b]. [b]‘My Manic And I’[/b] is just incredible, with even the Hollywood drunks silenced by its layered majesty.

Lacking a violin player, she whistles all the fiddle parts, and introduces a song so new she wasn’t going to sing it tonight, “except I’m in LA and it’s perfect for a film. A very specific film. Maybe a film that I’m too embarrassed to say. Don’t judge me”. So she sings about bones and homes and darkness growing darker, and then somebody shouts “[i]TWILIGHT[/i]!” and you fully expect her to dismiss them, but, what’s this? She’s blushing. It IS [i]Twilight[/i]! And all this should be a great big surprise, except, think about it – it’s a film about an intense teenager who is actually 104 years old. And that’s Laura Marling all over.

[b]Sophie Heawood[/b]