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Live Review: Laura Marling @ at The Lowry

She takes to the stage in what appears to be a frilly Victorian nightgown. She dissolves into the dress, white on white, the porcelain English rose – with red Converse on underneath.

The age-old truism that appearances are deceptive certainly stands true with Laura Marling. She is a fierce, dark, elusive performer. She enjoys silence, but is not quiet. She is private but reveals deeply melodic secrets.

Laura Marling is growing up. She first appeared on the Jools Holland show in 2007 at the tender age of 17. The Ophelia-style get-up is somewhat different to her first stage outfit comprised of a Spice Girls t-shirt and a look of utter terror.

This performance is a portrait of the artist as a young lady. She now stands tall and proud, singing up into the mic, Gallagher-style. She no longer avoids eye-contact, but altogether eschews it, looking up and singing to her musical muses in a trance.

The 23-year-old is touring with her fourth album, Once I was an Eagle. It is her third to be nominated for the Mercury Prize and this year she is competing against the likes of Bowie and Arctic Monkeys.

Her performance is wholly immersive, elegant and sensual. Thousands of people, raging hipsters and the balding middle-aged alike, are hypnotised into absolute silence and are completely engulfed in her lyrics which spawn their own dream-worlds.

“I feel like this is who I’m supposed to be when I’m wearing this,” she says, feeling a certain pressure to unravel the beautiful ridiculousness of her attire.

As she sings “I am a master hunter”, she pauses, feeling a sudden urge to confess, “I’m aware that I look like an insane person when I’m wearing this dress.”

She bought it from a second-hand shop in Dublin the day before. The lady in the shop asked her if she was going to a fancy-dress party.

“I was definitely born in the wrong time.” That’s it. She’s a time-traveller. She sings with a stolen wisdom that is impossible to attain within her 23 years. She shifts between low conversational register and sweet melodies, as Laura Marling finally begins to grow into her lyrics.

Her reviewers have devoted many a line to the time she spends meticulously tuning her guitar between songs.

Despite being “a great fan of silence”, she decides to awkwardly fill it with “things that I’ve underlined in books in the past two weeks.”

The keen-eared audience member will notice that she’s mainly reading poetry, and has a particular affectation with Walt Whitman. The literature she devours must have some influence over her own poetic lyricism.

“Alright, got another one”, she says, scoffing at the pretentious depth of her quotes.

She is a bird-woman. In her songs, she is a scared, fierce and passionate eagle. In real-life, she is a magpie, a collector of words and experiences – even though they may not belong to her.

She appears exhausted by her own intensity, sighing with a nonchalant, knowing mystery of one who has already been there.

Assuming musical alter-egos of birds and old wives, she’s just a musical prophet, stomping back to earth in her red Converse to tell us of her wonderful and dark discoveries, singing, “I speak because I can to anyone I trust enough to listen.”

- Gabriella Swerling

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2 Comments on “Live Review: Laura Marling @ at The Lowry”

  • Dermot Mitchell October 1st, 2013 12:49 pm

    The prose is somewhat purple, but all in all, an accurate review. If there were any criticism it would be that the show was way too short – seventy minutes which included lengthy between song gaps. I liked Laura’s frank disavowal of encores – they’re so contrived, aren’t they? – and also the withering look she gave in the direction of a wolf-whistle. I’d be interested in seeing these songs – and a few more, please – played with a band, though she whipped up a storm on her own with those two acoustic guitars (cramp notwithstanding). What a great guitarist she is! I was reminded of Nick Drake in that regard.

  • Emma October 1st, 2013 5:26 pm

    What was the name of the first poet Laura quoted?

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