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Project 52 ’11 25: Laura Marling Album Launch

September 15, 2011

On the 12th of September Laura Marling released her third album, A Creature I Don’t Know. Releasing a third album is not unusual in itself, but it is quite an achievement for a twenty-one year old, especially if it lives up to the quality of the first two albums. As I write this, the album has been released for nearly 22 hours  and my box set edition is lying on my bed unplayed. This isn’t because I’m trepidatious about the quality of the album – if all the reviews I’ve seen are anything to go by then it is as triumphal as her earlier work – rather, it is because I had the unique opportunity last night of attending the album’s launch at the rather posh London venue of One Marylebone.

I am a massive fan of Laura Marling and I was really disappointed to miss out on seeing her play Birmingham Cathedral as tickets sold out far too quickly. I had hatched a madcap scheme to travel to Orkney to see her play the cathedral there, but, in hindsight, it’s probably for the best that I never got past the pricing-up stage of planning. A while ago I received an email from the Laura Marling mailing list offering me the chance to attend the album launch just by entering a prize draw. I chanced it and low and behold I was invited to the event. Cue desperate scramble for train tickets and hotel rooms and me organising a journey which, whilst not as far-fetched as the Orkney scheme, was a finely balanced affair. A late train either way could have seen me miss out on the event or me missing out on work the next day. Luckily all went to plan and we (my plus one and I) arrived at the venue on time.

One Marylebone is a converted Seventeenth Century church: all white stone pillars and Neoclassical domes, which has been converted into quite an up-market and modern venue. We were to be situated downstairs in the vaults of the church which had very unvault-like fifteen-foot high ceilings  with a bar on the left, dj booth on the right, a circular stage in the middle already strewn with instruments and a few pews dotted around the place for extra authentic seating. The bar served posh beer and cocktails in jamjars; the lighting was gloomy and atmospheric; the one-hundred strong crowd of competition winners and plus ones provided an air of excitement.

The stage

Laura Marling mounted the stage, waif-like and almost frail-looking but carrying with her a commanding and tangible quality which would have marked her out to anyone who didn’t recognise her. The stage was most definitely hers and she made it so during her first two songs, which were acoustic numbers sung more beautifully and in a more ephemeral way than comes across on her recorded material. I’ve always believed that seeing music performed live is the only way to get a true sense of what you’re hearing and that it really separates the serious,talented artists from the chancers and those reliant on heavy production and auto-tune. Her skill with a guitar was also very much apparent. Combine this with her mature singing voice and exceptional song-writing skill and the only thing which belies her age is her appearance.

She was then accompanied on stage by her band which included percussion, a double bass, and a keyboardist. Although this gave the songs more tonal depth, they were still playing very much acoustically and the skill of the musicians was clear to see as they filled the cavernous space with songs I had never heard but instantly liked.

Laura Marling and band

The final song of the evening was the single from the album, “Sophia”. It was the only song of the night which I recognised but all of the songs were of a high quality and excellently performed.

I wish the set had been longer and I wish there had been more crowd interaction. The unplugged nature of the set made it hard for us to hear what she was saying even though we were no more than a few feet away. Also, any noises within the venue such as a door closing or a bouncer’s radio going off were very apparent during the performance. Having said all that, I would definitely put it in my top two live music performances. The atmosphere and the skill combined to make a unique night and I could never shake the feeling that I was seeing something I’d never get to see the like of again.

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