Laura Marling

Shrugging off hype and the Mercury curse, the folk wonder proves she's no flash in the pan. Birmingham (November 9)

Blessed with the unique capacity to remind a screaming populace the existence of George Pringle is not the sign of a coming apocalypse, Laura Marling is the antidote to great swathes of music industry bullshit. Specifically the sort of bullshit where, in the ironichasm of the London scene, successful gigs in the capital are seen as the peak of human musical achievement. Cast your minds back to last year when our protagonist was releasing limited edition seven-inch singles (urgh!) and playing intimate East End shows (yuck!). She was everyone’s favourite tip for the top and what happened next is entirely dependent on one factor: she didn’t sit and wait for deference to be heaped upon her for imaginary non-achievements.

Tonight’s show is a shining example of how she just plain tried harder than everyone else in music today.Mixing embryonic new songs with album tracks that sound so distant from their recorded counterparts it’s breathtaking, she earns every bit of adoration the crowd lavish upon her. She’s louder too: a Patti Smith-folk snarl sneaks into ‘You’re No God’. For a girl so shy she later won’t have her picture taken without her bandmate sitting in his pants in the background to deflect the embarrassment, it’s miraculous. ‘Ghosts’ is now a ballsy stomp with her band as tight as their stage props budget (one solitary ship’s wheel). It’s when she plays alone, though, that she really shines. If she paused in the middle of ‘Night Terror’ and suggested the audience start sawing their arms off they’d be dreamily hacking through sinew before they’d even thought twice.

All this encapsulates why she became one of the darlings of the underage revolution, not a hapless trendster adding Jo Whiley on MySpace at three in the morning with tears in her eyes. Now old people come to her gigs – actual old people. There’s a woman standing in front of us tonight in the packed-out Glee Club who must be in her 70s and she’s here because Laura Marling means something. That is fucking brilliant. Pay attention Tony Sony, the world is clamouring for substance. Whoever judged the Mercurys needs their head seeing to.

Rebecca Robinson