Last week, I went to see a concert with a few friends who share a similar taste in music. We went to see Laura Marling, a British singer who is usually described with a mélange of the words ‘folk’, ‘roots’, ‘country-acoustic’, and ‘singer-songwriter’. She often gets inspiration from literature and mythology (“Sophia”, the first single off her new record, A Creature I Don’t Know, is based off of a character from a Robertson Davies novel). Not everyone’s cup of tea, but she is undeniably talented, which is rare in many popular female solo artists today. We got soaked in the storm on the way there, but rain is the perfect type of weather for a Laura Marling show (she is a Londoner, and her music is often filled with pathetic fallacy). The venue was The Great Hall, at the sketchy end of Queen West. The hall itself was small and cozy, and felt almost like the sanctuary of a church. The opening act was an incredible singer under the act name ‘Alessi’s Ark’. She sang one memorable song about a robot she planned on building, while trying to ignore the moustached man in the front row who was flirting with her quite openly. For the penultimate song of her short set, we barely noticed that Laura had slipped on stage to sing backup, looking as pale and ghostly as ever.
When Laura came on, she began with the powerful and harmony heavy “Rambling Man”, but there were new harmonies I had not heard before that incorporated her whole six member backing band. Throughout the night, she managed to play an even distribution of songs from each of her three albums (quite an achievement for a 21 year old), yet each song was arranged in a new way I had never heard before. The song “Ghosts”, from her debut album Alas I Cannot Swim, also switched out the modest harmonies of then-backing-one-man-band-now-lead-singer Marcus Mumford for loud four part harmonies. She even managed to squeeze in a quiet and unusually romantic new song, which she “fucked up” on. The most memorable part of the evening by far was when she played the song “Don’t Ask Me Why” that went straight into one of the triumphs of her new album, “Salinas”. As she was singing the first line of the song, she paused (I was surprised that her band mates stopped when she did), and quietly chastised a couple at the back for talking quite loudly through her whole set. She later confessed, after she saw them leave, that many couples on their first date attend her shows, which she doesn’t understand as her music is not at all “sexy or sultry”. The final song of the night, “All My Rage” was full of loud banjo strumming and foot stomping and was the perfect way to end off a reflective and for the most part, calm evening.
Attending concerts, for me, is a rare but incredible treat. For two hours, I feel that I’ve found one more place where I belong. I feel a deep connection with the people around me, and of course, I get to enjoy the music that I like, often in a new and exciting way. And (forgive me while my inner fan girl exposes herself for a moment) I get to be in relative proximity with the people I look up to most. I may not remember every song that was played, but I always remember that rush I get when the artist gets onstage and jumps right into that first song. And after a gray and dreary week of homework and not much else, it was the perfect way to lift my spirits.
Laura Marling Live in Toronto – Don’t Ask Me Why and Salinas