Gig review: Laura Marling at O2 Academy Leeds

Laura Marling at O2 Academy Leeds. Picture: David Hodgson
Laura Marling at O2 Academy Leeds. Picture: David Hodgson
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Fake news. There’s a lot of it about apparently. Nobody is immune, not leaders of the free world, not C-list celebrities and certainly not music artists.

For instance, it has been widely reported that Laura Marling is only 27 years old, has six studio albums under her belt, a voice reminiscent of Janis Joplin and all of that in a career that also includes a sabbatical to get off the musical travellator to train as a yoga teacher.

This cannot be correct. We demand a retraction.

Marling’s new album Semper Femina is released just days after her UK tour commenced in Leeds. This was a shame, acknowledged from the stage, as the full Academy house weren’t going to be au fait with a large element of the set. Indeed seven of the first eight tracks were new.

The album title takes a Latin phrase meaning ‘woman is always fickle and changeable’ and lifts it to the more positive ‘Always a Woman’. The constant striving to understand femininity and creativity is a reoccurring theme throughout Marling’s discography. Tonight was International Women’s Day and not only had bookies stopped taking bets as to whether she would refer to it in the first ten of a ninety minute set, they had already paid out.

And so it came to pass, straight after set opener Soothing, with its jazz fuelled bass and guitar lines that meander across each other. On a stage adorned with flowers, Marling and her assembled band, quickly ran through unheard numbers from her new album, but if The Valley and Wild Fire are a sign of things to come they won’t remain unheard for long. Marling’s voice is stunning, alternating between ethereal and sharp, pointed, urgently delivering lyrics that have been cogitated and contemplated as to how they can deliver their meaning.

Laura Marling at O2 Academy Leeds. Picture: David Hodgson

Laura Marling at O2 Academy Leeds. Picture: David Hodgson

Never more so than when Marling takes the stage as a solo artist, singing about ‘a trio of women’s names we haven’t heard of’, Noeul, Daisy and Sophia. However good the new album is, set highlights Salinas and I Speak Because I Can revisit the extensive back catalogue and stand out.

Marling never really shifts up a gear, the gig has highs and lows, her voice ranges from English wallflower to US Southern drawl but lyrically and musically the evening is consistently on a high. Marling’s acoustic guitar also shapeshifts, Spanish guitar to classical chords to country twang.

Fortunately Marling quickly came to the conclusion that yoga instruction wasn’t really her calling and she quickly returned to what she clearly knows best. It remains to be seen what sort of reception the new album receives but this was a confident set, the new untested material standing proud next to an extensive and well-trodden back catalogue, a truly progressive step. There was some disjointedness towards the end, longer than planned discussions going on stage, a guitar strap that requiring alteration but this just ultimately added to the singer’s humility.

If this is truly the quality and depth of what is being produced at 27 years old then the genre is in safe hands. But it can’t be. Laura Marling can’t still be only that age and producing this level of inventiveness and quality, that’s just ridiculous.

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