The bright young folk lead their congregation in the capital…Union Chapel, London (March 6)
While both Laura Marling and Johnny Flynn freely admit to being heavily influenced by New York’s carefree anti-folk scene, it’s obvious that their resolute Britishness also has a part in their musical make-up. Tonight is about more than acoustic guitars and a wry expression. It’s about morris dancing and wicker men; willow-stripping and Glastonbury Tor as the sun rises on the summer solstice.
With his blond mop of hair and ruddy cheeks, Johnny Flynn is an Earth angel in lumberjack plaid and denim, casting glorious harmonies through the draughty, tea-light lit venue with his flautist sidekick and sister Lillie. Mandolin in hand, he sets about conjuring up a semi-mythical England populated by fair maidens, a place where music is as essential to life as loaves of bread and hot mugs of tea. The animated stomp of ‘Leftovers’, however, is in sharp contrast to tonight’s headliner, whose feet seem to have been cemented to the stage. Stock-still she may be, but it has little bearing on the way that the Home Counties’ most exciting current export can make the rapt audience swoon with a simple strum of her six-string.
Sporting a newly-shorn pixie crop, Laura breaks into the luxuriant ‘Ghosts’, which palpably twinkles with gorgeousness, but is then bettered by the sublime ‘Night Terror’, in which her string section bow their way deep into the song’s darkly lit nooks and crannies. The honky tonk of ‘You’re No God’ lifts the mood, but as Marling finally seems to become more comfortable with the task at hand, it’s time to go.
Dismissing the idea of an encore, she tells the crowd to just imagine that they’ve already crept offstage and come back for a last song. We do, and are treated to a farewell rendition of ‘Alas I Cannot Swim’, its Appalachian hillbilly breaking into a near hoedown as Marling and the band finally leave. The solid applause afterwards leads to the band slinking back onstage one by one, and means Marling’s plans to get away without the embarrassment of an encore have failed. “Thank you very much, you’ve made me blush,” she grins sheepishly. Hopefully it’s the just the confidence booster she needs.