Live Review

Laura Marling, Cathedral, Manchester

Laura Marling brings musical salvation to Manchester Cathedral.

Softly-spoken, shy and self-deprecating all seem suitable words to describe Laura Marling. As a folk singer / songwriter, however, there seems to be no more important female voice in British music than the one that belongs to the 21 year old Hampshire-born artist. Tonight, the ‘When The Bell Tolls’ tour of English Cathedrals is further testament to her young, but timeless talent.

The set is divided into three sections: during parts one and three, Marling is backed by a full-band of other ‘well posh’ instrumentalists, including ex-Hope Of The States violin Michael Siddell plus piano, banjo, cello and horn players, whilst part two is Laura laid bare – musically speaking, of course (she is sporting a very cuddly-looking knitted jumper) and only has her guitar for company.

During this time, she reduces the usual eerie strings of Night Terror to a light strum and a delicate whistle and even treats us to a delightful new song tentatively titled ‘Pray For Me’ (according to the blogs and not Laura, who introduces it with no name). A romantic fable which is sure to become a future set favourite, it features an empowering chord progression and summons a ‘folk’ spirit to pray that she is not led astray by the red man with a pointy tail and a pitchfork (but in much more poetic Marling-esque terms).

Talking is kept to a minimum, as is to be expected, but is in complete fitting with the occasion and the atmosphere and the kind of artist Marling is. When she does speak, however, Marling exudes a grace and an apparent amiable sense of humour, particularly when her band and she offer a set of ‘Manchester-based’ facts, including that the Cathedral wall is “older than Liverpool” and that this is the “city in which Rolls met Royce.”

What is startling is that by the final part of the show (which featured no encore) is the realisation that Marling had missed three of her most popular songs – ‘Devil’s Spoke’ and the mesmerising duplet of ‘Cross Your Fingers / Crawled Out of The Sea’ and ‘New Romantic’ from ‘Alas, I Cannot Swim’, despite a visit to all three albums throughout the set.

It just goes to show that at 21, Laura Marling is an artist way beyond her years and is building a back-catalogue of folk numbers right up there with her peers.

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